At this year’s 22nd annual Asian American Youth Leadership Conference over 350 students representing 36 high schools from Oregon and SW Washington came together at Concordia University on May 16 for a rich and empowering conference. Students addressed this year’s theme – “Who Am I?” through a series of group activities and discussions held throughout the day. In one workshop, participants were encouraged to understand that one’s physical qualities do not determine one’s character.
As Asian Americans, we often are perceived in a stereotypical way and are labeled carelessly. The Asian American Youth Leadership Conference motivates teens to embrace the Asian culture and to stand up for who they truly are. As part of the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference since my sophomore year, I have grown tremendously as a leader. Starting out, I attended the conference just as a participant then eventually became an ambassador, representing my school. Growing up, I was always a shy and reserved girl, but attending the conference sparked something inside of me that made me come out of my “shell”.
AAYLC empowered me with confidence and motivation that eventually shaped me into the leader that I am today. Not only have I become an ambassador for AAYLC, but I was also given the opportunity to be a planning team member for the Ambassador Engagement Series (AES). AES is a series of mini conferences geared to help students refine and develop leadership skills and qualities through workshops, networking, and civic engagement. Students participate in numerous workshops that help them build connections with others, gain leadership skills, and learn more about the Asian culture. Overtime, AES evolved to be a movement called H.O.P.E.(Helping Others in a Positive Environment), which was created to empower and encourage teens by involvement in community service opportunities and fun activities. AES:HOPE and AAYLC have been contributing factors to my success as a leader. Through my participation in AAYLC and its programs, I have joined my peers in enthusiasm for social change, developed as a leader, and inspired to create a lasting difference within my community.
Here are more examples of what the students learned from the 2014 conference – their responses to the question – “What did you learn from this conference?”
“I learned a lot about myself and others in the Asian community.” – Beaverton High School.
“How to meet friends appropriately and the use of time to learn about other’s perspective.” – Tualatin High School
“That aside from our race, we are still very unique and strong individuals.” – Tualatin High School
“To work as a community.” – Liberty High School
“There are a lot of people who share the same difficulties as you, and you can make a difference as long as you make yourself heard.” – McMinnville High School
“Negative and positive impacts of racism.” – Alliance High School at Meek
“How to express myself.” – Portland Christian High School
“I learned to make new friends (and) be a leader. I learned how to open up.” – Sprague High School
“I learned more about my own personal identity and others. It was a new learning experience.” – Benson Polytechnic High School
“Who you are is important. Standing up may be hard but you should let yourself get heard.” – Centennial High School
“External appearance doesn’t represent an entire person. Get to know someone first before making a judgement.” – Westview High School
“Although we are all Asians, we are very different from each other. But our similarities are what keep us connected.” – Cleveland High School.
See a full album of the 2014 AAYLC pictures in the Photo Gallery