Multicultural BYU students reflect on historical female role models

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Several multicultural BYU students reflected on women whose examples have influenced their lives, in honor of Women’s History Month.

Miyamoto Jensen, a junior from Laie, Hawaii majoring in family history and genealogy, said one woman she enjoyed learning about in school was Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

Bishop, born in Hawaii in 1831, belonged to the royal Hawaiian family. She never had children but donated her estate to schools in Hawaii to eventually help establish what is now known as the Kamehameha Schools.

“We honor her every year by singing songs about her and giving her tribute,” Jensen said. “If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have these schools and I think she is given a lot of credit for preserving Hawaiian culture that is very strong today.”

She explained one must prove Hawaiian lineage in order to attend a Kamehameha school. Jensen is part Hawaiian, Samoan, Japanese, German and French.

She said although Bishop “didn’t have children, she now has thousands.” Jensen credits Bishop as someone who influenced her career choice and plans for serving others.

“Her selfless act inspires me to be like her and serve our people as well,” Jensen said. “It influenced my major. There is a great need to help and bless the Polynesian people and if I can do so through genealogy, I considered myself successful like her.”

Christy Yu also shared her experience on learning about a strong woman in her nation’s history that has influenced her career choice as well.

Yu is a first-generation Chinese student at BYU. She originally decided to study at the University of California but transferred and continued her accounting major after joining the LDS Church.

She said in China, she learned about Soong Ching-ling, the wife of Sun Yat-sen, a powerful revolutionary leader who helped establish the Republic of China. Yu said becoming educated is key to helping others, the way Ching-ling did.

“She was a great woman,” Yu said. “During the war people turned to her and trusted her. Even though her husband died, she stayed active and helped serve the people.”

Yu said one of the reasons Ching-ling had the authority to do so was through the education she obtained coming from a high-class family. She said Ching-ling had the skills and experience to help her country.

“She’s the kind of woman I want to be: strong intellectually, brave and elegant,” Yu said. “I want to help others by first educating myself to eventually serve my family and the people.”

Christine Gutierrez, a junior from Delano, California, majoring in sociology, said she admires Dolores Huerta, a Mexican-American activist who fought for civil rights with Cesar Chavez in the 1960s.

Huerta and Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association and started strikes to improve migrant worker’s circumstances and fair pay.

“I’m passionate about that because that fight for equality began in my home town,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said her heritage makes up a large part of who she is. She is an active leader in LAZO, a BYU Latino club dedicated to serving the public through networking within the Latino community and BYU campus.

She said studying sociology has helped her understand different views and race in another way. She also said activists like Huerta have taught her that “you can make change in a cooperative way without violence.”

Tiana Cole, a senior from Orem studying linguistics, said her grandmother, Charleen Benedict Cole, was a great example in her life. Both are Native American from the Mohawk tribe.

Cole’s grandmother was born in Canada on May 8, 1934. She moved to the St. Regis Reservation in New York and was determined to earn an education to become a nurse.

Cole said she admires her grandmother because of her willingness to try harder, even when circumstances were very difficult.

“She was willing to work for it, but it cost a lot of money to become a nurse,” Cole said. “I remember being told the story of her not knowing how it would work out, but she walked to the place to sign up and they told her they would provide what she needed.”

Cole explained that her grandmother becoming a nurse blessed many lives. She said her grandmother was known to help neighbors, family and friends whenever she was needed.

“I learned from her to have a constant focus outward,” Cole said. “Although life is not perfect, I never once heard her complain about anything. She taught me to have a positive perspective in life and that there’s always someone who needs us.”

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