TCC names Amin “Tony” Hester as Ellen Pinto’s Outstanding Student of the Year – The Suburban Times

From left to right: Belinda Laju, Tony Hester, Chaeryeoung Kim.

During the May 11 Board Meeting Study Session, the TCC Board of Trustees voted to select Amin “Tony” Hester as Ellen Pinto’s Outstanding Student of the Year. As Outstanding Student of the Year, Hester will receive $1,000. Finalists Chaeryeoung Kim and Belinda Laju will receive $500.

Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year Finalist: Chaeryeoung Kim

Lakewood Chamber - Lemonade Day

Chaeryeoung Kim, a chemical engineering major, is an international student from South Korea. She chose TCC because she heard that TCC had high school graduation programs for international students, because she wanted a college with low tuition, and because she had heard that TCC had an excellent engineering program.

When Kim was in public school, she was interested in Earth science. She decided that a degree in chemical engineering would allow her to pursue a career in sustainable development.

Kim volunteers on campus and with her church youth group. She is active in TCC clubs and is currently helping two South Korean students who want to participate in TCC next year.

Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year Finalist: Belinda Laju

In 2019, after 12 years away from school, Belinda Laju decided to attend TCC to complete her prerequisites and apply for the nursing program. She says the help from the Early Learning Center (ELC) to look after two of her three children was the factor that allowed her to come back.

Lemonade Day at Lakewood Chamber

“ELC has been a family to our household that has filled in the gaps where extended family has been lacking. Each staff member plays a complex role in the lives of our children, allowing them to belong and be seen. It’s amazing to watch our children grow and learn in a loving, safe and patient environment,” Laju said.

Laju wanted to give back what she had received. She wanted to help families understand the impact of early learning while helping them get involved in supporting centers and programs through decisions that would directly impact policies and budgets. states and the federal government. She applied to be a 2019 Parent Ambassador and was the first TCC representative to be accepted into the Washington Association’s 2020 one-year Parent Ambassador Program.

Edward Jones - Bart Dalton

Laju has also volunteered to serve as ELC Parent Committee Chair, working alongside ELC Family Support Specialist Rosy Schlitzkus to facilitate monthly meetings for parents to get involved. actively in the center and in the community through decision-making and advocacy.

“The Parents’ Committee provides a safe place for all voices to be heard and plans events throughout the year for families to spend time together building relationships that support their journey,” Laju said.

Laju is currently a Level 2 Nursing student at TCC and is the Nursing Student Organization (SNO) Cohort Pinning Coordinator, SNO Class Representative and SNO Vice President. Eventually, she would like to become a nurse midwife practitioner and open her own practice.

Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year: Amin “Tony” Hester

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TCC has been part of Tony Hester’s story for a long time. Born with a visual impairment, he spent a lot of time in high school trying to figure out how to work with it. He entered TCC’s Running Start program at age 16.

“I was 16 and a friend of mine stayed right across the street, so needless to say I didn’t do very well,” Hester said in her interview with Ellen Pinto. “I used the excuse of going to my friend’s house to avoid doing the work. I didn’t understand how the work was done, and part of that was denial.

Hester returned to TCC for one term before transferring to Washington State University. It was at WSU that he discovered his advocacy, serving in various roles in a disability advocacy group on campus and finding himself president.

Tacoma Community College

“That’s where I learned to grow as a leader, understanding that it wasn’t just about me,” Hester said. “That this is about the constituency I serve, this is about the student.”

After graduating from WSU, Hester worked at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind. There he realized that not all people with disabilities had his advocacy training and that he did not agree with the organisation’s approach in all cases. Hester enrolled in a government relations training program, which gave her the ability to advocate at the city level. He learned to speak for others, as well as for himself. Eventually, that brought him back to TCC. Having become completely blind 2-3 years ago, he decided to complete the paralegal program before applying to law school.

Ragtime at the Lakewood Playhouse


Hester, who is also a single parent, volunteered at TCC until her daughter fell seriously ill. Then he got a part-time job at OSE.

“That’s when I really said, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to make sure, in every meeting, every chance I get, that I speak for people not just like me, but maybe worse off than I. That was my mission,” Hester said.

In response to a question from the administrator about how TCC can improve the experience for students with disabilities, Hester said, listen to the students. Buy expensive technology. Beware of software companies that claim to be accessible but really aren’t. If you need extra help, hire extra help.

“I wish I had someone to listen to me – everyone thought they knew what I needed, everyone thought they had the answer, but really, the student has the answer”, Hester said.

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