The Conference


To help Asian American youth rise above the obstacles before them and achieve their potential by promoting education, instilling self-confidence, and developing leadership skills.

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The first conference was organized in 1993 under the leadership of Mr. Paul Duong while he was serving as the Coordinator of the City of Portland’s Refugee & Immigration Program. From the beginning, it has been supported by Asian American community-based organizations and school districts in the Portland metropolitan area. Some of the community-based organizations included the Center for New Americans, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Portland Lodge, the Japanese American Citizens League, the Korean American Citizens League, the Refugee & Immigrant Consortium of Oregon & SW Washington, and the Vietnamese community of Oregon. Funding was also provided by private, corporate, and community-based organizations.

Although there is a prevailing notion that Asian American students are not disadvantaged, the truth of the matter is that many Asian students come from refugee and first-generation immigrant families. These students struggle daily to overcome language, cultural, and prejudicial barriers in order to excel in school and become active members of their communities.

This conference serves as an annual summit aimed at inspiring Asian American youth to value the importance of self-discipline, self-confidence, self-esteem, and the overall rewards of perseverance and achievement. We believe that when youths are provided with resources, empowerment, and opportunities, they can become role models for others in their communities.

In 2004, following Mr. Paul Duong’s retirement from the City of Portland, the Center for New Americans began to serve as the umbrella organization for the AAYLC with Mr. Paul Van Mai serving as the conference chair. In 2010, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Portland Lodge was selected to take over as the umbrella organization with Ms. Helen Ying serving as the conference chair.

Since its inception, the conference has continued to grow both in size and geographic reach. Today, the conference annually boasts an attendance of over 500 students from close to 40 high schools representing Oregon and SW Washington. Moreover, in addition to the main conference, typically held in the spring, a series of mini-conferences are being held for a selected group of students aimed at engaging them in a deeper level of leadership development through networking, workshops, and civic engagement – the AAYLC Ambassador Engagement Series.


Each year, more than 500 high school students, selected from multiple school districts, both public and private, from Oregon and SW Washington attend the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference. Twenty school districts and 37 high schools were represented at the 2012 conference. Students from diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Indian, Iranian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Mien, Pacific Islander, Pakistani, Thai, Tibetan, and Vietnamese, among others were in attendance. Furthermore, 28% of the students self-reported as “mixed-race” or as “other” at the 2012 conference.

Since its founding over 20 years ago, the conference has helped thousands of students realize their individual potential as leaders of tomorrow. Each year, the program has been planned around a theme relevant to the students’ focus on leadership-development, communication, and cultural identity. At each conference, over 100 adult volunteers and school chaperones participate in the facilitation of the activities and workshops. Students have also been inspired by motivating keynote speakers such as local news reporter and television news anchor, Ms. Anna Song Canzano; renowned artist & actor, Mr. Tou Ger Xiong of Minnesota; author and genocide survivor, Mr. Kilong Ung of Portland; and author and success coach, Mr. Hoan Do of Washington. In addition, over 30 vendors representing colleges, organizations, and other agencies have continually put on fabulous college and career fairs for the students.

Utilizing the talents and experiences of college students and professionals to facilitate workshops, the conference incorporates various topic-related exercises and activities to enhance and reinforce leadership skills and ideals. The conference also gathers prominent members of the community to inspire Asian high school students to develop leadership qualities as well as to pursue leadership positions.

In addition to the learning at the conference, three college scholarships, totaling $3,000.00, are offered annually to AAYLC senior participants. Awards are also given to logo contest winners at each conference.


Every AAYLC and AES conference is planned, organized, and executed by unpaid volunteers. Throughout the year, the AAYLC Planning Team, AES Planning Team, and Conference Volunteers whole-heartedly give their time and energy to make every conference a success.

Funding for AAYLC activities is obtained solely from private, corporate, and community-based organizations. We hope that you share our belief in the investment of our youth and contribute financially to our endeavors. All financial contributions to the AAYLC are tax-deductible.

If you are interested in volunteering with, contributing to, or simply need more information about the AAYLC, feel free to contact Helen Ying, AAYLC Chair, by phone at 503-803-4555 or by e-mail at