How we lift up student voices

Photo Credit: Asian Pacific American Coalition at the University of Central Florida.

As the school year comes to a close, APIAVote’s Program Associate, Kathryn Quintin, crisscrossed the country empowering and networking with student leaders.

From my time in the south at the Southeast Regional Conference for Asian American leaders (SERCAAL) and the Level Up! at University of Central Florida to my time at the Association of Asian American Studies Conference in Portland, OR, I found the experience of working with young leaders exhilarating and empowering. Not only did I work with some amazing AAPI leaders, but I also learned how different and similar the issues and narratives were in each part of the country.

APIAVote’s interactive workshops focused on understanding both individual and community power and how to enact change today. We discussed what is power, how it is utilized in our everyday lives and in organizing communities, how to alter the relationship with power, and what are tangible steps to accomplish our goals and build collective power on campus or in the community.

Photo above: Student leaders take a group photo at the end of SERCAAL.

When speaking at the Triangle Asian American Student Conference in North Carolina, we discussed how building collective and political power relates to the fight to implement an Asian American studies program at their respective universities. The students strategized on how to outreach and engage other AAPI organizations, faculty and staff.

When it comes to learning about power, half of the battle is understanding you have power. A preconceived notion commonly believed by many of these young leaders was the idea that other people hold power, but not themselves. Students believed that parents, administrators, elected officials, elders, and teachers hold all the power to impose their will on young people. We opened up dialogue on how we utilize our power every day to make a difference in our surroundings, and how to shift the balance of power to reflect the needs of youth.

Photo above: APIAVote collaborates with AAOP, CAPI, and Freedom, Inc. on a youth power workshop at the Hmong National Conference. From left to right: Yaomee Xiong (CAPI), Pashie Vang (AAOP), Chai Moua (Freedom, Inc.), Kathryn Quintin (APIAVote), and Samantha Vang (CAPI).

At the Hmong National Development Inc. Conference, with my colleagues at Freedom Inc., CAPI, and Asian American Organizing Project, we immersed the students in understanding power through a Hmong lens. The conversation of power hit close to home, with students opening up about examples of how Hmong politics shape the power dynamics of their community. In our breakout session, students called out different issues such as civic engagement, anti-blackness, and abusive international marriages. 

The New York City Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC) engaged students of all ages. College, high school, and middle school students shared their experiences and strategies with each other. Students had different approaches on how to get young people to understand their power. While some students talked about the need to develop sustainable models of Asian American student organizations, others addressed the culture of pressure and stress on high school students to get good grades.

Photo above: Students pose for a selfie during the New York City Asian American Student Conference hosted at NYU.

APIAVote has been at the forefront of advocating for and with AAPI youth, but we also need your help! Young people have the power to create positive change, but they lack the tools and resources. 

Now more than ever it is important to invest in young people and attend youth and student-organized conferences. Donate to APIAVote to ensure that we are able to continue to build community power with young AAPIs and fight for our future together. 

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