NAAAP100, NAAAP Inspire, NAAAP Pride Awards

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NAAAP100 Award

In 2008, NAAAP began a program to recognize the most exemplary leaders in the AAPI community. The NAAAP100 award is granted annually toluminaries in their respective field who, in addition to their considerable professional achievements, have made powerful contributions to elevating the AAPI cause. Previous award winners include the late Senator Daniel Inouye, Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi, Superbowl MVP Hines Ward, and playwright David Henry Hwang.

NAAAP Inspire Award

In 2016, NAAAP created a program to recognize our most promising up-and-coming leaders in the Asian community. Over time, this award has grown to recognize leaders who have made a notable departure from their usual work to utilize their platform in affecting positive change in an unexpected way. Like NAAAP100 honorees, these NAAAP Inspire honorees have had a significant impact in business, government, or nonprofits.

NAAAP Pride Award

In 2018 NAAAP Pride was officially launched as a national program to empower, educate, engage, and celebrate the Asian American LGBTQ+ professional community and its allies by providing education, promoting visibility, and developing current and future LGBTQ+ leaders.  To celebrate the 1-year anniversary of NAAAP Pride, the NAAAP Pride Award was established to honor an influential leader in the Asian American LGBTQ+ community who has made significant contributions in advancing LGBTQ+ leadership, equality, and visibility.

2019 NAAAP Awardees

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Apa Sherpa

Recipient of the NAAAP100 Award

Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa was born in Thame, a village 3860 meters high in the Everest region of Nepal near the Chinese border. When he was 3 months old, he and his mother were caught in an avalanche; Lhakpa was thrown from the basket on his mother’s back and came to rest under an ice ledge by a stream. After his mother found him unhurt 2 hours later, she took him to the Lama to pray and give thanks. It was at this point that Lhakpa was renamed “Apa” which means “much loved.”

Apa’s dream was to become a doctor, but his dreams were shattered when his father died. Following his father’s death, twelve-year-old Apa took up the responsibility of providing for his family, consisting of his mother, two sisters, and three younger brothers. He dropped out of school and started working as a porter and a kitchen boy for mountaineering groups. He reached the summit of Everest for the first time in 1990 and then proceeded to summit the famed mountain 20 more times over the next two decades; he holds 13 Guinness Book of World Records for his mountaineering feats and held the world record for most summits of Mount Everest until 2018. As a Sherpa, Apa has never lost a climber.

In 2009, Apa founded the Apa Sherpa Foundation, dedicated to the improvement of education and economic development in Nepal. Reflecting on his dream to be a doctor, Apa created the foundation to provide opportunities to young people in Nepal to pursue careers other than the dangerous work of a Sherpa. Without an education, many young Nepalese have no choice but to brave the icy slopes of Everest to support their families.

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Hitesh Ramchandani

Recipient of the NAAAP100 Award

Hitesh Ramchandani is unable to join as at Convention this year. NAAAP looks forward to honoring his achievements at a later date.

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Due to a complication at birth, Hitesh Ramchandani was born with cerebral palsy. Doctors predicted he wouldn’t live for more than 24 hours. As a toddler, Hitesh struggled to hold a baby bottle; it took him three months to learn to ride a bicycle.

Never letting the challenge of his cerebral palsy discourage him from striving for excellence, Hitesh began swimming and playing football at nine years old, eventually going on to become a Paralympic medal winner with the Singapore Cerebral Palsy Football Team.  In April 2015, Hitesh authored his autobiography, “Better Than Normal,” which has sold more than 15,000 copies worldwide.

Hitesh’s mission is to inspire 50 million people to be “better than normal” by 2050 and has spoken to more than 2 million people of more than 32 nationalities around the world. He is the recipient of the South-East Asia Excellence-Special Mention of Outstanding Achievements Award for his inspirational work as a role model to youth around the world.

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Mia Frances Yamamoto

Recipient of the NAAAP100 Award

Born Michael Francis Yamamoto in Poston Relocation Camp in Yuma County, Arizona, in 1943, Mia Frances Yamamoto is the co-founder of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Southern California; co-founder and current co-chair of the Multi-Cultural Bar Alliance (a coalition of 17 minority, women’s and LGBT bar associations); and founding board member of International Bridges to Justice, a human rights group providing due process education and advocating against investigative torture in the judicial systems in China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Mia graduated from Cal State University, Los Angeles, in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Government. She then served in the United States Army’s 4th Infantry Division, USARV, from 1966-1968, earning the National Defense Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and Vietnam Service Medal.

Following her service, Mia attended UCLA’s School of Law, where she co-founded the Asian Pacific Islander Law Student Association, graduating with her J.D. in 1971. Mia began her legal career at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, where she worked from 1971 to 1974. She served as Deputy Los Angeles County Public Defender and California State Public Defender from 1974 to 1984 before transitioning into private practice.

Mia has previously served on the boards of the L.A. County Bar Association, Korean American Bar Association, and ACLU of Southern California. She has served on the California Judicial Council State Task forces on Jury Improvement and Access to Justice and is the past president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, a statewide organization of 2,500 private and public defenders, and past president of both the Japanese American Bar Association and the Asian pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance.

Mia’s past honors and awards include one of three inaugural Stonewall Awards, the Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Trailblazer Award, the Harvey Milk Legacy Award from Christopher Street West/L.A. Pride and the Rainbow Key Award from the City of West Hollywood, among many others.

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Rachelle Arizmendi

Recipient of the NAAAP100 Award

In 2014, Rachelle Arizmendi became the first person and woman of color to be elected to the City of Sierra Madre City Council in California. She was selected by her colleagues to serve as Mayor in 2017 and was recently re-elected to her second term as a City Councilmember.

Rachelle is a CA Governor Appointee on the California Department of Food & Agriculture Board, Board President of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, and Board Member/Governance Committee Chair of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific Association of Community Development. She represents Sierra Madre on the Foothill Workforce Development Policy Board, serves as an Advisory Member of the South Coast AQMD Local Government & Small Business Assistance Advisory group, and is a Board Member on the League of California’s Cities (LOCC) Women’s Caucus. Past leadership positions include Board Member of LOCC, Board Member of LOCC’s Asian Pacific Islander (API) Caucus, and CA Governor Appointee to the State Interagency Coordinating Council on Early Intervention.

Rachelle is also the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of PACE (Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment). PACE is a non-profit community development corporation that serves over 50,000 people every year in the areas of job training and employment, business development, early childhood education, financial education and asset building, affordable housing, energy and weatherization.

In 2018, she was recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World by FWN. Other recognitions include Top 30 Alumni by the Southern California Leadership Network, CA Assembly Member Holden’s Woman of Distinction, and one of Los Angeles County Supervisor Antonovich’s Women of the Year.

Born in Carmel, California, Rachelle is a graduate of San Diego State University where she earned two Bachelor’s degrees prior to pursuing her Master’s degree at Eastern Illinois University. She’s a dietitian by education and has taught Nutrition courses at Pasadena City College. Rachelle, her husband Fili, and dog Madison, have resided in Sierra Madre for over twelve years.

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Nydia Han

Recipient of the NAAAP Inspire Award

Nydia Han is an Emmy award winning journalist specializing in consumer investigations. She is also a news anchor, TEDx speaker, Speaker Who Dares, and creator of the documentary series, #ThisIsAmerica, a fresh, provocative look at who we are as Americans.

As a consumer reporter, Nydia is committed to getting real results for viewers. She is dedicated to exposing scams, protecting families, and encouraging businesses and agencies to do the right thing.  Nydia also covers general news as a news anchor and has traveled numerous times to cover national stories.

In her work related to #ThisIsAmerica, Nydia hopes to inspire all of us to get to know each other’s unique American stories, check our own biases, and act as positive agents of change and unity in our communities.

Nydia has worked in television markets in Philadelphia, Houston, and Oklahoma City. She started her career as a reporter in Pocatello, Idaho.

Nydia is dedicated to helping our community in a myriad of ways. She is on the community advisory board for the Asian American Women’s Coalition and volunteers her time for many other organizations, especially to work on diversity and inclusion initiatives.  She is also passionate about raising awareness and desperately needed funds for lung cancer research after the passing of her mother in 2009.

Nydia received a Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a focus on International Studies from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.  Fluent in Korean, Nydia also graduated from a program at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea.

Nydia is a mom to two young children, a wife and a friend. She enjoys good food, good wine, and most of all, a good laugh.

Nydia invites you to view her work and connect with her at

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Telly Leung

Recipient of the NAAAP Pride Award

Born and raised in New York City, singer, songwriter, actor and producer Telly Leung is an influential leader in the Asian American LGBTQ+ community. 

Telly most recently starred in the title role of Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater. Other Broadway and national touring credits include Flower Drum Song, Pacific Overtures, Wicked, the final company of Rent, Godspell, Allegiance, and In Transit. Telly has performed live all over the world and has appeared on television in “Glee” (Fox), “Instinct” (CBS), “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” (NBC), among other shows.  He was also heavily featured in the PBS documentary Broadway Or Bust as a teacher and performance coach for the Jimmy Awards. 

Telly passionately believes in “paying it forward” to the next generation of theater artists and performers. He often teaches as a guest instructor in master classes all over the country. In 2013, he was selected to be the Tam & Young Arts Chair at Iolani High School in Honolulu and spent a week teaching and performing alongside the students and faculty. He continues to teach young performers as part of a team of coaches at Music Theater College Auditions (MTCA), an organization that helps high school students gain admission to competitive university training programs. In 2013, Telly joined the faculty at NYU’s New Studio on Broadway as an adjunct professor.


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