Reported by Ying Zhou
On January 11, 2020, Alliance of Chinese Americans (ACA) San Diego successfully hosted Asian Pacific Islander Youth Leadership Forum at Chinese School of San Diego. The forum included celebration of the completion of its inaugural API Youth Internship Program and a panel discussion by students on the subject of civic engagement. At the celebration ceremony, San Diego Councilmember Chris Cate presented the certificates and scholarships to five students who have completed their internship at various city, county, and congressional offices.
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The forum provided an opportunity for different generations of Asian Americans to meet and share their perspectives. Approximately seventy local Asian Americans, from as old as 93 years of age to as young as 16, came together to share their stories of civic engagement activities and community service activities engagement. The meeting started with Tom Hom, the legendary former San Diego Councilmember and California Assemblyman, sharing his story of how he had overcome unprecedented difficulties to become the first minority councilmember.
Lilly Cheng, Professor of SDSU, talked about how she dared the cultural and professional challenges to become a Chinese-speaking non-native certified Speech Language Pathologist in the USA.
Both Tom Hom and Lilly Cheng are well-known and highly respected leaders in the San Diego Asian community. Both of them emphasized the importance of mentorship as the advice for the younger generation of API.
The success of the API Youth Internship Program owes a great deal to Civic Leadership USA (CLUSA) which provided a grant and training, and the support from the local government offices. Six interns worked at the participating local government offices - Linh Cook with Rep Scott Peters, Lindsay Shigetomi with County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, Joey Uy and Jallene Pizarro at District Attorney’s Office, Micelle Huang with Councilmember Chris Cate, and Sophia Su with Assemblyman Todd Gloria.
Councilmember Chris Cate also spoke at the meeting. He encouraged the younger APIs to follow their passion and engage with community services. Mr. Cate echoed the panel discussion on embracing diversity, not only in the ethnicity of our community, but in different ideology and opinion above partisanship as well.
On behalf of County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, Anthony George presented certificates to students who had completed internship. In his congratulatory remarks, Anthony especially thanked the parents for their support of their children in their pursuit of civic engagement and public service.
Ron Cho, President of APAPA, also applauded the award recipients for their accomplishments. He emphasized the importance of participation in electoral process of civic engagement and he encouraged the students to 'stay involved in the community' beyond the internship.
One of the highlights of the forum was the panel discussion by students on civic engagement. Besides five interns, two YANGGANG volunteers joined the panel - Jeffrey Chiu, an incoming graduate student at UCSD and Liam Tan, a sixteen-year-old high school junior. Sitting confidently on the stage in the spotlight, the young men and women - fresh, bright and energetic - shared their experiences and discussed a wide range of questions asked by the panel moderator, Sunny Rickard.
Joey Uy talked about how the intern opportunity allowed him to obtain the firsthand experience working with diverse groups of Asian Americans, the underserved Asian Americans in particular.
Sophia Su, an aspiring performance pianist in UCLA majoring in Political Science pointed out the importance of breaking away from stereotyping young Asian Americans—quiet, obedient with a tiger mom and engineering Dad. People tend to group Asian Americans as unwilling to lead or speak first, she said. Being heard and being seen as an individual rather than just being painted with one broad brush as a model citizen is an apparent attribute for the younger generation of APIs.
The two YANGGANG volunteers eagerly shared their joy and excitement in volunteering for the Andrew Yang campaign where they have found the like-minded people. Jeffrey Chiu mentioned about motivating people to be active and get involved while Liam Tan, the youngest panelist, talked about how he found grit not from the STEM study at school but from knocking door to door for the Andrew Yong campaign.
The seven young Asian Americans exemplifies the next generation of APIs, sensitive and compassionate for the diversity of the society, passionate for the civic engagement and self-driven to make a difference by starting from local community service.
The event was organized by Alliance of Chinese Americans San Diego (ACA), a nonprofit (501c3) organization dedicated to serving Asian community of San Diego. One of its focuses is to encourage young Asian Americans to engage in civic leadership and be exposed in legislative process. “It is ACA’s mission to serve the API community through education, empowerment and engagement,” said Jeff He, President of ACA, “ACA plans to make the API Internship an annual program by partnering with CLUSA for funding and collaborating with the elected San Diego offices for internship placements”.
Moments of the Forum in Pictures
Photo credit: Xiu Yu
Video credit: Wenge Shi