Foreign Information Resource Nework Logo April 20, 2010


Contact: Jennifer Blake

Phone: 410-992-1923 ext. 11




Media Advisory




Eighth Annual “American Success Award” on May 4th Honors Foreign-Born Business Owners and Community Leaders


(Columbia, MD) -- On May 4, the 8th Annual American Success Awards dinner will honor Howard County’s foreign-born business and community Dr. Kim B. Kim and Dr. Miyong Kim, Luis Gustavo Mendez, and Zack H. Shariff for their outstanding contributions to the county’s economy and the community.

The award, presented by FIRN in partnership with the Howard County Government, Howard County Economic Development Authority and the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, recognizes foreign-born individuals who live or work in Howard County and have made a significant contribution to either their ethnic or general communities.  Award winners have distinguished themselves by either owning a successful Howard County business or achieving a high level of success in his or her chosen profession. 

The public is invited to this year’s awards dinner to celebrate and mingle with the winners and hear their success stories.  The event will be held on Tuesday, May 4, 6-8:30 p.m. at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville. Tickets are $75. For ticket information, call FIRN at (410) 992-1923 or order online at .

Proceeds from the American Success Award will benefit FIRN, which has served the Howard County immigrant and refugee population since 1981.  FIRN has helped more than 13,000 new Americans assimilate into life here by providing direct client services such as crisis intervention, employment counseling and placement, immigration counseling, information and referral, health care, housing, transportation, child care, and other vital resettlement issues.  FIRN also provides interpreter services and cultural awareness training to community agencies.  FIRN works in partnership with local government agencies and non-profit service providers.

For more information about FIRN or the award, visit or call 410-992-1923.


About The Awardees

Dr. Kim B. Kim and Dr. Miyong Kim

Dr. Kim B. Kim and Dr. Miyong Kim emigrated from South Korea with two young sons in pursuit of the “American Dream” but quickly experienced the challenges and obstacles faced by most new immigrants – the stress of acculturation and social isolation due to language and cultural barriers and lack of money for higher education.  They worked long hours to make ends meet, studied hard and invested years to earn bachelors, masters and PhD degrees in Arizona, then delved into research aimed at closing gaps in health care for ethnic minorities. This husband-wife team has contributed significantly to the community on health related issues for Korean-Americans and other underserved populations and linguistically isolated groups. Dr. Kim B. Kim is Director and founding member of Korean Resource Center (KRC), a non-profit organization in Ellicott City that promotes health and wellness and helps people in need to obtain free medications. Dr. Miyong Kim is Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Systems and Outcomes at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) where she has conducted immigrant community-based, culturally-sensitive research aimed at empowering people to take control on their health. Along with JHU nursing students and KRC staff, both have volunteered during the annual Horizon Foundation Health Fair and the annual Howard County Korean Health Fair and have provided free health screenings for people with limited access to health care. Dr. Miyong Kim also has been a Board member of the Maryland Korean American Association and a commissioner for the Commission on Aging and Retirement in Baltimore City.



Luis Gustavo Mendez

Gustavo Mendez was born to Bolivian parents in La Paz, Bolivia. While searching for a new home in the United States, Gustavo’s father died suddenly and tragically when Gustavo was only 8 years old. To carry on his father’s dream, Gustavo’s mother traveled to the United States while Gus and his two sisters stayed behind with their grandparents.  Once in the United States, his mother worked two jobs in order to save enough money to send Gustavo and his older sister to a private high school. When he was 13 years old, Gus and his sisters joined his mother in the United States.  After high school, Gus earned a Bachelor of Science Degree and a degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland. Choosing and excelling in a profession that serves others, he is now a physical therapist at Springfield Hospital in Sykesville, a proud and involved parent of three boys and a generous and spirited community activist – President of the Parents of Hispanic Students at Mt. Hebron High School, on the Howard County Public School System’s Hispanic Achievement Sub-Committee, and a Board member of Conexiones of Howard County. A valued mentor and supporter, he has served as a Hispanic Hero at the Maryland Hispanic Youth Symposium of the Hispanic College Fund, contributed to the Soup Kitchen, and is a member of the Helping Hands Organization.


Zack H. Shariff

Zack Shariff emigrated by himself at the age of 21 from Pakistan in 1976. Through difficult and menial jobs, he paid his way through college in Oklahoma and then Texas to receive his Mechanical Engineering degree. After his mother and then a sister passed away in Pakistan, Zack encouraged his father and sister to join him in the Untied States. They did, and Zack paid for his sister’s education through college. Zach has owned restaurants and worked at various engineering firms until starting his own in Howard County in 1992 – building Allen & Shariff into a $30 million international engineering company that employs over 120 people who know, appreciate and have great respect for its founder and President. He has also become a leader and significant contributor to our community. A former FIRN Board member, he has supported FIRN for more than 8 years.  He is also a founding board member of the Environmental Sustainability Board of Howard County. Through his company, he partners with several organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Adopt-A-Family, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Angel Tree program.  Understanding the challenges and opportunities of the foreign born, he has helped and mentored many local entrepreneurs and business owners, demonstrating his great passion for unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit in others.