Editor's note: Kyle Tianshi is a rising senior at The Cambridge School. Kyle was a recipient of Scholarship for API Student Internship 2023 for two programs - Journalism and Community Service Project. ACA thanks Kyle for this special report.
ACA wishes to express sincere gratitude to San Diego API Coalition, San Diego Chinese Women's Association, Qualcomm, The Hom Family Fund, The Avery Tsui Foundation, and numerous community individuals, for their generous grants or donations that make this program possible.
Alliance of Chinese Americans San Diego (ACA) held its fifth annual graduation ceremony on Aug. 19 for 57 Asian American college, middle, and high school students who were selected for various civic engagement internships over the summer, including public service internships within government offices, journalism internships, and community service internships.
In attendance were Mayor Todd Gloria, Councilmember Kent Lee, and representatives from the offices of Sara Jacobs and Mike Levin. Mayor Gloria thanked the ACA board and congratulated the students for their contributions to the community. Of Filipino descent, he then emphasized how only four AAPI individuals ever held an elected position in all of San Diego’s 173-year history.
“For many of us, we have to be told that it’s okay for us to run [for office],” he said. “I hope that what you can see is that we can serve in these offices.”
Councilmember Lee shared his journey to office, driven by his involvement with the Pacific Arts Movement, an Asian American media organization.
“Consider what organizations, what causes, that really matter to you most, and just take a chance to be involved,” he said. “While you’re at it, bring others to the table and ensure that they also have that voice.”
The public service interns then shared insights into their experiences working alongside local city officials. Anna Feng, under Congressman Mike Levin, detailed drafting policy memos, attending conferences, and competing in the Congressional App Challenge. Lia Zheng, collaborating with Mayor Gloria, discussed streamlining processes for delivering service letters and answering constituent calls.
The journalism interns took to the stage to present the stories they researched, which included features about Maestro Jahja Ling, a Chinese American conductor, Sam Luo, a queer Chinese American writer, and Dr. Vi Nguyen, a pediatrician and climate activist. They also showcased some of their journalistic skills, interviewing Councilmember Lee about his ramen spice level preferences and others about their favorite ice cream shops.
Community service interns each proposed ideas to ACA and spent hundreds of hours executing their projects.
Junnie Niu performed Guzheng, an Ancient Chinese music instrument, as part of her goal to share ethnic music with seniors.
Kevin Kan taught classes about drawing tomato-fried eggs, xiao long bao, and traditional characters to connect American-born Chinese students with their culture. Sophie Zeng, Sarah Gao, David Lai, Eleyn Xiong, and others led environmental initiatives to encourage composting, restore wildlife, and eliminate invasive species.
The ceremony concluded with remarks from Ron Cho, a member of Mayor of San Diego’s Asian Pacific Islander Advisory Board.
“[Mayor Gloria] didn’t bail out on you guys,” he said in reference to Tropical Storm Hilary, which hit San Diego the next day.
Cho says it’s because Mayor Gloria believes in the importance of Asian American representation in the public sphere.
“Our voice gets louder,” he said. “It gets closer to what we are––which is a sizable part of our community’s population.”
Below is the full list of students recognized in this year’s award ceremony.
Public Service Internship
Mirabel Luo with Congressman Scott Peters
Katelyn Wang with Congresswoman Sara Jacobs
Anna Feng with Congressman Mike Levin
Lia Zheng with Mayor Todd Gloria
Alec Sun with Councilmember Kent Lee
API Summer Internship in Journalism
YJ Si (mentor)
API Community Service Internship
Community Service by Courageous Youth Dragon Boat Team
Leaders: Alan Zhang, Brigitte Shi, Crystal Cheng, Vivian Chen, Yangminxing Wu
Members: Amy Zhang, Audrey Chi, Chuqi He, Charles Liu, Derek Qi Ying, Jinzhe Zhu, Yinjie Lai, Yangminyan Wu, Arwen Fu
Organic Waste Deteriorating In Landfills — Just Say No
Leader: David Lai
Member: Dale Deng, Jenna Xu, Jason Wang
Green Teens - A Recycling Initiative for Asian American Youth
Leader: Eleyn Xiong
Members: Zoe Pei, Rebecca Lin, Brooke Wang
World Music Festival
Leader: Junnie Niu
Members: Sophia Liu
Mobile Tinker Lab
Leaders: Katherine Ge, Erik Tang, Joyce Tan
Members: Richard Chen, Ryan Fu, Bryan Peng, Jessy Zhang, Sara Lu, Chloe Wong
Empowering American-Born Chinese Children with Art
Leader: Kevin Kan
Members: Lauren Kan, Max Yang
Clearwater Innovation Policy Incubator
Leader: Kyle Tianshi
Members: Jasmine Wu, Leanne Fan, Katelin Sung, Angel Aquino
A free and exercise tracking App for Autism kids
Leader: Menghai Kou
Members: Suo Qin, Vivien Ke
Petals for the Planet
Leader: Sarah Gao
Members: William Gao, Hsiu Lee
Project ARISE — AI-assisted Removal of Invasive Species for Environmental Restoration
Leader: Sophie Zeng
Members: Grace Yao
Photo credit: Xiu Yu, Ping Chen