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Queens Chronicle

Woodside student wins CUNY contest with a touching essay

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Posted: Thursday, December 28, 2017 10:30 am

A year after her father died of cancer, Woodside resident and Lehman College junior Sharon Lee honored his memory with a beautifully written reflection on loss and her father’s abiding courage that earned her top honors in the K.Y. & Noelle Chynn 2017 CUNY Ethics and Morality Essay Contest.

Lee’s piece, titled “Recollections on My Father: Courage in a Hospital,” received the Best Essay award — which includes a $1,000 prize — in the CUNY-wide, Asian American/Asian Research Institute-sponsored competition, surpassing more than 150 other entries. She received her award at AAARI’s recent gala.

Encouraged to enter the essay contest by Lehman Professor Olivia Loksing Moy, Lee focused on her father, Sunil Lee, founder and pastor of the New York Antioch Baptist Church in Woodside.

“My dad meant a lot to me, and with him gone I needed to fill that gap in my life,” she said. “In my essay, I wanted to let people know who my father was. At his funeral, so many people praised him. I wanted to memorialize him, and let people see how he managed his suffering. And not just my dad — I wanted to write about what my family went through while he was dying.”

In her essay, Lee recalls the calm, fortitude and kindness her father demonstrated during his illness. She poignantly describes key moments they shared, such as when she read the Bible in Korean to her appa (father in Korean); his final visit to the family home; and later, the moment she walked into the hospital room soon after his death.

“Sharon’s essay stands out because she writes from a perspective of utter fragility and vulnerability,” Moy said, adding that her mix of English and a hesitant Korean voice “gets to the very heart of the frustrations behind language and inexpressibility.”

Lee attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, focusing on piano and violin, and is now an English major with her sights set on an upcoming poetry contest.

“Writing is the best way for me to truly talk to people,” she said.

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