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2017-02-25 Cherie Yang: That Woman, That Moment

Congratulations to Cherie Yang for winning TNKR's 5th English speech contest! The theme of the contest: "THAT Moment: My escape from North Korea." Cherie definitely got prepared to seize the moment.

* From January 26 to February 21, she had twelve 1:1 coaching sessions with TNKR volunteer speech coaches.
* Those sessions totaled 1,260 minutes (21 hours)
* The seven contestants had a total of 34 coaching sessions (based on the number of reports sent by TNKR speech coach mentors), meaning an average of 4.9 sessions per refugee. Cherie was the outlier with a total of 12 sessions. (Plus, I'm very sure that at least one of her coaches did not report an additional session).
* Of her 12 sessions, 11 were at the TNKR office. That means that she was able to practice in a quiet office in privacy, as compared to a coffee shop that many volunteers seem to prefer. Refugees tell us that the coaches and tutors are much more focused when they tutor and coach at our office, which is one reason we hope to expand to a larger office within a few years.
* Her average coaching session was 105 minutes, which far exceeds the minimum requirement of 60 minutes for speech coaching sessions.
* This was her third speech contest, so clearly she wasn't being handed her award.

Cherie Yang's fundraiser for TNKR

Cherie won this speech contest, but it took hard work. All seven contestants gave great speeches. Audience members were moved to tears but also laughed several times.

Here's the amount of time coaches volunteered to help Cherie get prepared for the speech contest.

* Hannah Nedrow, 5 sessions, 450 minutes
* Laura Nguyen, 3 sessions, 420 minutes
* Jennifer Bowman, 2 sessions, 210 minutes
* Janice Kim, 1 session, 90 minutes
* Paul Evans, 1 session, 90 minutes

In addition, Cherie continued studying English with her tutors in Track 1.

* Dave Fry, 3 sessions, 315 minutes
* Jackie Cole, 1 session, 90 minutes
Hannah and Cherie were so loud that I'm surprised neighbors didn't report them for having a house party. In add, they had 5 coaching sessions for a total of 450 minutes.
Hannah and Cherie doing their best to pretend I don't exist.
Janice Kim at her coaching session with Cherie.
Paul Evans was the first coach to meet with Cherie in preparation for the speech contest.
Laura Nguyen predicted several times that Cherie would win. I'm glad she didn't meet with rival coaches, she would have engaged in trash-talking! If Laura ever goes to Vegas, I hope she will have TNKR in mind as she receives her winnings.
Jennifer Bowman and Cherie were grumbling about me taking a photo. But once I was ready to take the photo? They were all smiles!
TNKR needs a real podium.

Cherie celebrating with TNKR's American co-director


And she continued studying English with her tutors!

January 14th Matching session.

Renaissance man Dave Fry is focused on improving Cherie's English writing skills. 
Jackie read the other tutor reports, then came prepared with a lesson plan based on reinforcing what Cherie had already studied, plus she taught her many other things.


Cherie Yang first joined TNKR in January 2015, she has been with us since then. In mid-2015, she became TNKR's second Special Ambassador. In the last year, we have really seen her blossom, taking a leadership role and giving us some stability. No matter what the co-directors learn or say, people won't believe us unless we have refugees willing to speak out on behalf of the organization. In her speeches, she often calls the TNKR co-founders her "angels."

Cherie first learned about TNKR in late 2014, and was surprised to learn that there was an American guy working along with Yeonmi Park, the North Korean refugee who gained worldwide attention. After we met and talked for the first time, she wanted to volunteer and study if there was a chance during her trip. When she decided to stay in South Korea, she became a leading figure in TNKR.

Media, audiences, and people reading online want titillating anecdotes from and about refugees, some get disappointed when they join TNKR and learn that refugee stories are not the main part of our activities.

January 2015, first meeting, back when TNKR was based out of my desk at the Freedom Factory office.

Cherie first wanted to join TNKR as a volunteer, then she became a student after that.
Karissa was one of Cherie's first tutors in TNKR. When Cherie was chosen to go on a mini-speaking tour to the USA, Karissa was one of her tutors/coaches.

Feb 2015, Cherie was still a bit hesitant on stage.

Ashling was one of Cherie's first tutors.

Until yesterday, I would guess that Cherie's best speaking experience was with the US military. She didn't know the US soldiers would be dressed in their uniforms as they spoke.

Tutors and coaches may come and go, but her "TNKR angels" will be with her.

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