"If I hid behind my mask, would they still see me?"

Xueying Zheng, Jocelyn Simmons and S. Lucile Purnell delivered their award-winning speeches at the start of the 2022 Northern Nevada Diversity Summit

"If I hid behind my mask, would they still see me?"

Xueying Zheng, Jocelyn Simmons and S. Lucile Purnell delivered their award-winning speeches at the start of the 2022 Northern Nevada Diversity Summit

The 2022 Northern Nevada Diversity Summit took place April 6. During the summit's opening remarks, the three winners of the student speech competition delivered thier award-winning entries. This year's theme for the summit was Work, Study, Family, and Life Balances in Higher Education: Advancing Best Practices in a Pandemic World, and students were asked to compose their speeches around it. 

This year's winner was Xueying Zheng with her speech, "Hiding Behind My Mask: The Challenges of a Student," which can be viewed above. Zheng speaks from the heart about circumstances well beyond her control transforming her, her family and members of her community into subjects of anti-Asian hate as the pandemic raged. Far from shrinking away from these and other challenges, Zheng found her passion and her path: 

"As a medical student and future healthcare provider, my education allows me to champion healthcare initiatives towards the benefit of all, and I plan to spend the next few years learning ways I can increase competent care through diversity and inclusion," Zheng said. "I have taken focused effort in research, leadership and service roles that help ensure that – no matter what sex, race, identity or belief – anyone can access quality medicine."

Jocelyn Simmons took second place with her speech "A Rough Transition" about heading back to school mid-pandemic at age 44 as a trans woman. Third place in the competition went to S. Lucile Purnell for her speech "Healthy Habits Achieve Dreams" about finding and keeping balance when life starts throwing curveballs. Videos of their speeches can be found below.

These student voices set the tone for the full day of events and speakers at this year's summit, and it was one of determination and hope.

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