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APA Leaders 2015: Meet Monica Nguyen

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It’s already time to announce another APA Leader! Meet Monica! Monica is such a kind-hearted, humble, and caring person. APASA is so lucky to know a leader like her and you all should continue reading to learn more about her! 

Name: Monica Nguyen
Year: Junior
Major: Mechanical Engineering

What does being APA mean to you? 

I was actually just talking to a friend about this a few weeks ago. It’s a heavy question, but for me, being APA means being a part of a community that loves and supports me through everything that I do. I came into SCAPE at a really rough time in my life, looking to find happiness in the work, but instead, I found happiness in the people. I found a community of people who accepted me and genuinely made me happy every time I got to hang out with them. I haven’t told many of the e-board members of SCAPE and APASA last year this, but I had so many bad days that first semester I joined. Knowing that I had a SCAPE or APASA event to go to was sometimes the only thing that got me out of bed. Seeing them and being there made me feel like I was simultaneously a part of something bigger than myself and a part of something for myself. Being APA means much more than an identity to me. It means this community.

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Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. 

On campus, I am the external vice president of the USC Student Coalition for Asian Pacific Empowerment (SCAPE). To me, SCAPE is a space for APA student activists to talk to and feel connected to each other. I am also a member of the Vietnamese Student Association. Last semester, I was also a participant in APASS’s CIRCLE program.

As much as I would love to be a part of APASA and every one of their member orgs, the time machine I’m building isn’t done yet, so the best I can do is try to go to events whenever I can in order to support. I am especially excited to come out to more heritage festival events this year to enjoy the shows and see all the hard work these organizations have put in.

As a part of my role as EVP, I am also a campus delegate for the West Coast Asian Pacific Islander Student Union (WCAPSU), which brings together APA student activists from across California to develop ourselves as leaders and form relationships with other students doing this work. I was also on the summit planning team for our last two summits. WCAPSU has helped give me the resources and the community support I needed to be a better student leader.

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What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders? 

Self-care, self-care, self-care, self-care, and…what I am forgetting? Oh right! SELF-CARE!

As a student leader, I think it is easy to start placing the work before ourselves, but I have found that I can’t do the work without taking care of myself first. I am cannot be the leader, the student, or the friend I want to be if I am not getting enough sleep or taking care of my health.

The hardest part of practicing self-care, though, is that it ultimately comes down to practicing self-love. I have to love myself enough to know that I deserve to be taken care of, that I deserve to get 3 meals a day, and that I deserve to get a healthy amount of sleep every night. I have to love myself enough to know that I don’t have to do something to earn these things because I already deserve them.

To love yourself is a hard thing. It has been a long journey for me to get to a place where I can love myself and feel that my voice matters and that I matter. I am only at this point now because of the people I have surrounded myself with. I have friends who never let me forget it and never make me feel like I am anything less than enough. That being said, I still have times when I don’t like myself, and that’s ok too. This is a journey, but a journey I think is worth going on as a student leader. It gives you something to fight for and it is, in itself, an act of resistance. If you are an aspiring APA leader, I would really suggest starting by trying to love yourself first, and make sure the spaces you enter and create perpetuate the self-love in yourself and others. On a personal level, I can say that I’ve found a sense of liberation in unapologetic self-love.

Why is it significant to learn about our heritage?

I find it important to learn about my heritage because it is such a big part of my identity. I cannot remove the Vietnam War from my identity as a Vietnamese American. I can’t remove the struggle of all the Vietnamese people who came before me. It has very much made me who I am, and understanding that makes me more aware of myself, giving me the tools to speak up and speak out. It also helps be understand my parents and what they have gone through. Learning about our heritage is learning about their history, and knowing these things helps me communicate with them.

I still feel like there is so much to learn, not the least of which is my own home language. Since coming to USC, I do not have to use Vietnamese very often, so sometimes I feel like I have lost that part of myself. So, a goal of mine would be to relearn Vietnamese eventually so I can talk to my parents in their native tongue and have another way to hold onto my heritage.

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All money aside, what is your dream job? 

This might seem like a cop out, but my dream job has always been to be an engineer. Even before I learned that engineering was a field that existed, I loved thinking about how the world worked and finding solutions for the problems I saw. When I found out what engineering was, it was like a light bulb went off in my mind. I knew that I wanted to become an engineer and build things that could help people one day.

As far as what kind of projects I want to do as an engineer, my ideal life would include working in a variety of industries. I want to work in the space industry for a while, because, I mean, space. I also want to work with Disney as an Imagineer. As a kid, I used to go to Disneyland dreaming that I would be able to design and build the rides that I enjoyed. I just wanted be a part of the magic I felt whenever I went to Disneyland or was at home listening to the fireworks.

Beyond this, I will trust life to take me where I need to go, so long as I can build, do problem solving, and do some good at the same time.

What motivates and inspires you? 

People inspire me. My e-board inspires me every day. Seeing what they have done for SCAPE and to get InspirAsian together makes me so happy. I seriously would not being doing this work if it I couldn’t do it with these people. I would have quit a long time ago, but being able to work with people I can call my closest friends is what keeps me going.

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Anything else you would like to add-shoutouts, thanks to anyone for support/encouragement, etc?

To SCAPE E-board – Seriously, y’all are killing it. I said it already, but InspirAsian is going to be great tomorrow only because of all the work y’all have put in. Alex and Lorna, thank you to you both for putting up with me stressing out over the summer about not being able to do this. I am so proud to be your EVP.

To my fan club – I was going to give an explanation so that people wouldn’t think I was being narcissistic, but I feel it would be better left as is. I love y’all and thank you. I’ve been smiling since the moment I found out.

To APASA E-board (Last year’s and this year’s) – The APA community at USC wouldn’t exist without y’all. Gloria and Alison, you both welcomed me with open arms and that is something I am never going to forget. Kaylee and Sean, I would nominate you two for APA leaders if I could. You both deserve it so much with all the events you put on and the community building you have done (but you should get some more sleep). APASA has had a great year, and it is because of y’all.

To EdMonth I’m not a part of EdMonth, but y’all inspire me to push myself harder and expand what is possible as student leaders. Hannah, you have done so much and I can’t wait for March. You should also get some rest though. Vanessa should also get some rest.

To Michael Thank you for being the first one to make me critically think about my identity as a South East Asian American. That initial conversation with you at the end of freshman year is the moment that really got me started in all this.

To Becky – Thank you for never being afraid to call me out and hold me accountable for my language and my actions. I know it is uncomfortable to do, but you do it with so much sass and I am a better person for it.

To Andy – There is not much I can say that I haven’t said to you before, but thanks for giving me guidance throughout my time at USC. Without you, I may have never found the APA community here. So many of the friends I have now, I met because of you, so thanks.

To WCAPSU – Thanks for all the support y’all have given me. Being a part of WCAPSU has truly helped form me as a student leader and, with the new e-board, I know y’all are going to kill it.

To my family – I know you have to put up with me, but I’m still glad you do.

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Thank you Monica for being such a wonderful leader in the APA community. Thank you for your inspiring words. APASA appreciates all that you do. Fight on!

Nominate an APA leader today! Click here.

 

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APA Leaders 2015: Meet Alison Chang

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Our fourth APA Leader this year for APAHF is Alison Chang! Alison is a dedicated and diligent person who is committed to the APA community. Continue reading to learn more about Alison and her experiences here at USC. 

Name: Alison Chang
Year: Senior
Major: Business Administration
Minors: Law & Public Policy, Philosophy

What does being APA mean to you? 

Where do I begin…?! I think being APA is having the best of both worlds. You aren’t singularly Asian or singularly American; rather, you have both identities that tell a little bit about who you are (whether you acknowledge it or not). It’s an identity that is recognized almost immediately from the outside but requires much more to really understand in its fullest. It’s a complicated identity that can be taken politically one way or socially another. All of this being said, there are so many facets to being APA that this question will never have one true answer. Despite all of these complexities, I believe that the APA identity is something that should be embraced and celebrated for its history and its potential. As APAs, we are the result of the hard work and determination our immigrant family members underwent in pursuit of this better life. We have the privilege of enjoying both our Asian Pacific heritages while living that American dream. In recognition of all of this, we are capable of redefining and establishing Asian America not as foreigners, but as a significant and crucial part of our society.

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Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. 

At the moment, my primary involvement is with the Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association (ITASA), which is kind of like the national APASA for Taiwanese American student organizations. I’ve been on the ITASA National Board since my sophomore year – first as the Southern CA District Governor and USC Representative, then as the National Vice President. This year, I am the director of the ITASA 2015 West Coast Conference (WCC), aka the most EPIC conference to ever meet Trojan grounds! (Side note: It’s not just for TAs! Register now – you won’t regret it!) I am also involved with the Taiwanese American Organization (TAO) on campus as an avid supporter and Senior Advisor. I guess you can say I’m pretty into being Taiwanese American.

Previously, I was also involved with APASA for three years. I began as an intern my freshman year and eventually became Finance Director, then Assistant Director this past school year (#tbt to Glorison). I was also a 2013 OCA Intern in Washington, D.C.

Tell us about one of your most memorable moments at USC. 

It was one in the morning on a Saturday night. While most freshmen were out on their first college night at The Row, I was running around Hahn Plaza, chasing my best friend’s orientation friend’s girlfriend in a battle of freeze tag. Coming in as a freshman, I had the typical fears of meeting the right people. Yet, my first night as a real college kid began with an exploration of campus with a single friend and ended with eight additional acquaintances tagging along just for the heck of it, all of whom I started calling my “homies” only a few hours after we had exchanged names and majors. We knew each other through a complex web of friends of friends and somehow, that was enough to bring us to to McCarthy Quad where we found ourselves playing rounds of Sharks & Minnows like it was nobody’s business. It wasn’t until later on that I stopped and realized just how blessed I was to have met the perfect group of people on my very first night at USC. That night of pure spontaneity sparked a series of communal all-nighters, “Family Dinners” at Parkside, and genuine friendships, eventually bringing me to my apartment of the OG homies who remind me each and everyday how fortunate I am to be at USC with so many amazing people around me.

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What’s your personal story? How did you first get involved with the APA community?

Oh, way back in the day… When wittle freshie me just arrived at USC, I knew I most definitely wanted to get involved with some clubs here and there, but I didn’t know exactly what. APASA initially appealed to me because 1) I am an Asian American and 2) I like planning events, so I figured “Hey, maybe this will be cool…” and it totally was! As an intern my first year, I found that APASA was exactly what I was looking for – an organization involved with student government where you can meet a lot of people while making a significant impact on the campus community. From that point on, APASA really became my life, going from an intern to Finance Director to Assistant Director for my final year.

In the meantime, I was also eager to meet others who were just as obsessed with Taiwan as I was, and word on the street was that USC had a legit Taiwanese American Organization with just that! I joined TAO and got involved right away as the Career Officer and USC Representative for ITASA my sophomore year. Learning about student involvement on the national level was… Mind-blowing. To think that student organizations from across the country collaborate to maximize their impact on their community was just the most inspirational thing I had ever heard and I knew I had to be a part of it. My passion for the Taiwanese American community and my desire to spread love for my culture has grown exponentially through my time on National Board. After having met so many people from all different walks of life who share the same affinity towards Taiwan and Asian America, I have only been empowered to continue doing my best to make a difference in whatever community I am a part of.

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All money aside, what is your dream job? 

If I could do anything in the world, I would start an orphanage. I love kids and it completely breaks my heart knowing that there are children out there who don’t have a family or loved one to care for them. I just want everyone to know that they are loved.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Taiwan. Hands down. It all began in the Summer of 2010 when I travelled to the rural regions of Taiwan to teach English. I was there for four weeks, which was more than enough time for Taiwan to touch my heart at the deepest level. I was in complete awe of the scenery not just in the mountains but really everywhere I went. The city, the countryside, the night markets. The people were also among the most loving individuals I have ever met in my life. Their humble lifestyle made me realize how superficially I live each day of my life here in America, taking for granted all the things that I have been blessed with. Even though I have travelled to Taiwan nearly every year since, I really can’t get enough of my motherland. There is truly no place on Earth like it and I would take a trip to Taiwan over any other place, any day. (I also really need to brush up on my mandarin too.)

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Anything else you would like to add- shoutouts, thanks to anyone for support/encouragement, etc?

To APASA - Thank you so much for being our representatives at such a large university! All of your programs are absolutely amazing and we appreciate all of your hard work. :) This includes member organizations as well!!

To ITASA Space Command - You all are so legit and amazing and I cannot wait to blow the minds of all of our Space Cadet (conference attendees) then PARTY HARD with y’all afterwards!! You all bring me to the moon and back with so much happiness and joy. <3 Thank you all for everything over the past several months!! Particularly Alice for putting up with my craziness… So excited for the best. Conference. Ever.

To everyone reading this - thanks for getting through my weirdness! And for supporting APASA! As a reward for yourself, you should register for the ITASA 2015 West Coast Conference… WOOOT! See ya there!

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Thank you Alison for all of your hard work. APASA is glad to have had you as an AD. Thanks for being an APA leader. Fight on! -USC APASA 

Nominate an APA leader today! Click here.

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And here is my last installment of the APASA’s Got Talent spotlight series! I know, I know you’re going to miss these APAwesome posts, but your best chance to see these extraordinary performers (and judges!!!) is to come to APASA’s Got Talent on Friday, February 27 from 7pm to 10pm at Ground Zero! Without further ado, here are the last 2 contestants:

VINCENT DUONG x AARON WONG

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How did you get into singing or dancing?
Vincent: I took a choir class during the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I didn’t have any experience at all while everyone else did. I ended up being the best singer at our concert. I got a lot of praise for singing well so that’s when I decided to join Acapella senior year of high school.
Aaron: I learned guitar from my youth leader in church and have always enjoyed singing (mostly in the shower). I’ve always enjoyed playing and listening to music, but have never had any formal training.

What’s the best part about performing?
Aaron: Performing with friends. Its always better when you can do something you enjoy with people that are important to you. Plus it’s a lot of fun!

Which performer(s) inspire you?
Vincent: I really like a lot of R&B singers because their voices are absolutely phenomenal. Some artists that I would list are Usher and Ne-Yo. As for modern day singers, I follow a guitarist named Gabe Bondoc on youtube and another singer named Travis Garland.
Aaron: Is it too cheesy to say, “my fellow performers”? It takes a lot of courage to get up on stage and be vulnerable to strangers and their opinions. It really inspires me whenever I see someone, especially when they aren’t too experienced, get on stage and put on a performance.

Tell us about your first performance:
Vincent:  My first performance that I remember was my first concert for Acapella. I did a small duet part in a song with my best friend and people said our voices melted together like butter. It was a very enjoyable experience.

CARRIE ZHENG x SHAWN HALIM

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How did you get into sing/dancing?
Both my parents are musicians so, singing has always been a huge part of my life. I really got into singing in high school, as I was part of my high school show choir, spurring my interest in performing.

What’s the best part about performing?
Performing is so much fun because you get to share what you love to do with others and hopefully have the audience enjoy the music as much as you enjoy making it.

Which performer(s) inspire you?
Ellen Degeneres (which sounds weird because she’s not a singer) because she’s so willing to put herself out there and take risks in her acts.

Sally…….

Aaaaand you thought my spotlights were over! BUT NOT JUST YET! I wanted to take this time to highlight our wonderful judges!! If you are friends with any of us on Facebook, you should see that all our cover photos are of APASA’s Got Talent, and it features the 4 amazing celebrity judges:

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The four celebrity judges are:

D-Trix

Priska

Mc Jin

Jae Jin

Wow!!! Come support and watch celebrity performance as well! I’ll see you there ; )

Sally Yoo
Webmaster + MC Yoo

APASA’s Got Talent: Spotlight #2

Hello lovely readers : ) I am officially back with the second spotlight for APASA’s Got Talent. Today, I have the honor of highlighting 4 APAwesome performers. And without further ado, here they are:

Panda On Fire 

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What’s the best part about performing?

Vincent: Best part of it is to interpret the song in your own way and demonstrate that to the audience. Sometimes, I can relate my personal stories to a song, which really makes the song mine. And also I got to go with the flow on stage. I can feel the emotions coming up inside me and I show them on my guitar. That is just awesome.

Dean: I often find it really hard to express myself especially my emotions. I always try to show the positive side of myself because I feel uncomfortable and insecure showing my weakness to others. However, when I perform, I let my guards down. I am willing to pour my heart and soul into my performance. This is the best part about performing. I am free to express myself and convey my emotions. Honesty is the key element of my performance.

Which performers inspire you?

Vincent: I follow a lot of blues players like BB King, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and the very mysterious gentleman Robert Johnson. I also like Ray Charles, Al Green, James Brown, and a band from Norway called Kings of Convenience. Biggest lesson I learn from their performances is: you have to enjoy your own performance before anyone else. You are the first audience of your own.

Dean: The performer that inspires me the most is Beyonce’. I really love her attitude. She is always putting her 100 percent in every performance, and her music is honest. Her songs are not made with the intention of pleasing the audience. There is a story behind all her songs. Moreover, she is not afraid to address sensitive topics like gender equality. She inspires me to be myself and never let others dictate my path.

My first performance:

Vincent: During my first performance, I played guitar for a Spanish song called ‘Como Quien Pierde Una Estrella’. My friend from El Salvador did the vocal. I don’t really understand the lyrics but I can totally feel the emotions and energy in the song. It was a great experience. Like people say, ‘Music has no boundaries. No matter what language, genre, rhythm, it can always find a way to everyone’s heart.’

Dean: My first official solo performance is during my sophomore year in high school. I performed “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John in my school’s talents show. I was really nervous in the same time excited! Of course, I have improved a lot compare to my first performance. However, it is the applause from the audience that continues to motivate me to perform. I love performing on stage because whenever I start singing on stage, I felt a little bit special inside… This is the moment when I felt I am no longer an ordinary college student…

Street Dance Society (SDS)

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Picture & answers from Ma Zhen, a senior dancer representing SDS:

How did you get into sing/dancing?
I started dancing because one man, although there are many great dancers inspiring me afterwards, Michael Jackson is always my first role model.

What’s the best part about performing?
The best part of performance is to spread out the fun and joy to your audience through art of dance. If I can make people feel happy by dancing, that’s the biggest reward.

Tell us about your first performance.
My first performance was way back to high school, where I used to imitate Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean.

Adrian So

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How did you get into sing/dancing?
Well I first got into guitar playing because my friend wanted to impress a girl and he kind of forced me to learn guitar with him in a group guitar class. Once you learn guitar, you naturally want to sing along with it, so that is how I got into singing as well.

What’s the best part about performing?
I think the best part of performing is you get to showcase a different side of you to your friends.

Which performer(s) inspire you?
Alex Turner (my mancrush), Thom Yorke (my 2nd mancrush), Coldplay, Eason Chan, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar and much much more.

Kevin Sung & Leanne Park 

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Answers from Kevin Park:

How did you get into rapping?
I used to freestyle for fun in middle school during recess. Then, I started recording for fun in high school.

Which performers inspire you?
Bobby Shmurda, Childish Gambino and Yeezus

What is the best part about performing?
Getting hyped up and having fun on stage

 

And those four extraordinary performers wrap up my spotlights for tonight! Our facebook event just launched, so make sure to go check that out along and click “Going.” Can’t wait to see you all!

Sally Yoo
Webmaster + Singer in the showers

APA Leaders 2015: Meet Alex Kanegawa

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APASA is excited to announce to you our third APA leader, Alex Kanegawa! Alex is a wonderful and courageous human being. He consistently goes out of his way to help the APA community and his work does not go unnoticed. Read his interview to learn more!

Name: Alex Kanegawa
Year: Sophomore
Major: Planning, Policy & Development. 

What does being APA mean to you? 

Oh, I’ve been so anxious about answering this question ever since I got nominated. But I guess what that anxiety illustrates, if anything, is that being APA is such an important yet thoroughly inscrutable part of my identity. And, yo, don’t get me wrong; I love it. I love being APA. It’s precisely because I love it that my brain never fully wraps itself around what being APA means to me exactly. The relentless process of interrogating that self-conception is undoubtedly a huge part of the definition unto itself, but, more fundamentally, the theme that I keep coming back to over and over is something that I can best describe as having the power of choice. And this is because, in my experience, being APA is not a default factory setting; this acronym does not become us simply because we are told that we are something, or because we perform caricatures of the things that society expects us to embody. No, being APA is an intentional decision, and a political one at that, whether or not we choose to affix such a strange and frightening context to its definition. I wanna avoid retreading over what some of my other fellow APA Leaders have already said, but I think when we talk about being APA, it’s about so much more than just stereotypes and enforced deference and struggling with the pervasive feeling of being “othered.” In navigating these oppressions, I find that I’m at my strongest when I own and love this part of myself, and in doing so, engage with the necessary but difficult work that strategically resists subjugation and apathy. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of empowerment that can be derived from being Asian Pacific American, and it’s one thing this world can never take from me. That’s what I mean when I say political. That’s what I think when I hear APA. And I firmly believe it’s mine (and yours) to reclaim.

Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. 

I guess first and foremost, I’m the president of USC SCAPE (Student Coalition for Asian Pacific Empowerment). Our main goal as an organization is to provide space, dialogue, and connectivity for progressive API students, both on and off campus. We like to facilitate meaningful engagement with pressing social issues and work in solidarity with our campus allies whenever possible! Additionally, I’m a proud member of SCALE (Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation), which is one of the most passionate and hard-working groups of organizers on campus; I shouldn’t have to explain how labor exploitation relates to the APA community and our hxstories. I’m also currently a work-study employee at APASS (Asian Pacific American Student Services), which has been an invaluable resource to the APA student community through its programming, advocacy, and willingness to let folks sleep on their top-notch couches any time of day! And as of last week, I’m the new Southern California regional co-organizer for the West Coast Asian Pacific Student Union (WCAPSU), an expanding grassroots coalition of West Coast APA student organizations; I’m incredibly nervous about having gotten the job!

Off-campus, I’m a staff member with the Tuesday Night Project and its flagship program, Tuesday Night Café. TNC is the longest running (and still operating) free Asian American arts series in the country, and y’all should definitely check us out every 1st & 3rd Tuesday, April through October in Little Tokyo! Good vibes, good people, and a great opportunity to see community-building through creativity and passion.

Those are my primary commitments at the moment, but I also have strong ties to various other organizations through previous work including Kizuna, API Equality-LA, the Little Tokyo Service Center, and the Japanese American Citizens League, among others.

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What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders? 

“Never forget to listen.” It’s the best piece of life advice I’ve ever received, and while I do trip up and forget to be mindful of its significance more frequently that I’d like, it’s something that still keeps me grounded as I continue to grow and reconfigure myself over time. If I can’t successfully navigate the supremacy of my own ideas or reconcile them in the presence of others, then I need to be held accountable for that shortcoming. Leaders are not monoliths, and it’s important to recognize that leadership can (and does) come from anywhere.

Now, if you’re looking for some more concrete recommendations, definitely start the search for resources now! USC is one of the most abundantly endowed universities in the world, and we have great privilege in regards to access and support as students. There’s no better time to cultivate your skills and critical consciousness. You can come hang out with me at APASS (Asian Pacific American Student Services) anytime, or get involved with some of our wonderful APASA (Asian Pacific American Student Assembly) organizations (including SCAPE!). Your involvement doesn’t begin or end with APA orgs either; hone in on the things that light a fire in your heart, challenge yourself to engage with these feelings meaningfully, and never be afraid to ask questions. Be bold!

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Why is it significant to learn about our heritage?

“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.”
José Rizal

The colloquial, non-literal translation of this phrase is “know hxstory, know self; no hxstory, no self.”

Now, what does that mean (to you)?

Think about how often we see ourselves reflected in the textbooks we read, the media we consume, within the words of people whose assumptions are superimposed over the narratives we struggle to tell. Where are the stories about our parents, grandparents, or perhaps even great grandparents and how they crossed worlds to be here, to raise families, to lose parts of themselves as the price of entry into this country? What do the roots of our communities’ diaspora look like? How do time and space and a sense of linearity affect our identities? I find this quote especially poignant in the context of the APA experience because we are systematically denied from learning our hxstories on a daily basis. We are denied language and tools of articulation that allow us to express what we process authentically. We are not meant to see ourselves as distinct or whole, because that framework of knowledge is dangerous. But I think that being dangerous is exactly what we need to be at this point in time. Our heritage is embodied by the food we eat, the relationships we foster, the rage we possess that is either confirmed or denied through our interactions with culture, and the bravery that we exhibit when we dare to seek more. The significance is self-evident. Who are we to ourselves and each other without hxstories to call our own? I honestly have no real answers, just a lot of questions and feelings. Here’s to hoping that the rest of you do too.

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Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten?

Living in LA. Eating conservatively, but cooking often. Struggling with debt, but existing comfortably in a modest apartment with a puppy and maybe a roommate or two. Working to enrich and transform the spaces in which people inhabit, both at the grassroots and professional level. I’ll probably have stopped collecting comic books by then, unfortunately. Definitely visiting my parents often and ensuring my little brother is happy and healthy. That’s my best projection, at the moment.

What motivates and inspires you? 

People inspire me, every day. I have a huge adverse reaction to being called a pessimist or a glass half-empty kind of guy because I like to think of myself as someone who is painfully, obnoxiously hopeful. I may not always see the best in others, but, fundamentally, I’ll never lose faith in the world’s broader capacity to become a better place, and that’s a belief that will carry me forward until the day I die. I think anyone who pursues justice in their lives feels something similar deep down. Additionally, working with youth (as though I’m so old, right?) is incredibly rejuvenating, as it affirms just how much potential there is in our future, should we take the time to invest in ourselves today.

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Anything else you would like to add- shoutouts, thanks to anyone for support/encouragement, etc?

First and foremost, shout out to APASA! It’s not over yet, but seriously, congratulations on putting together such an APAwesome year! Y’all are the backbone of this community, and have personally enabled me to do so much through my work; thank you for putting together this project and for your tireless advocacy. Special shout-outs to Kaylee and Sean for all your late nights, sacrifice, and outstanding support.

To the lovely folks at APASS, I cannot emphasize how much it means to come into work every week and be imbued with so much life (even when I’m taking one of my notorious naps on the big couch). Shout outs to Mary and Jonathan for their warmth, wisdom, and patience, and for putting the needs of students first. And much gratitude to the CIRCLE fam, especially Wednesday session and the greatest TAs ever, Hannah and Cindy!

To my SCAPE E-Board, thank you for continuing to work with me throughout this highly experimental year. I know I haven’t been the best president I could be, but you folks have done an outstanding job in keeping up and pulling me back from the edge of failure. Y’all are the real MVPs. Special thanks to Monica and Lorna for being my ballasts, as I would’ve no doubt drowned long ago without you two.

To SCALE Core, I hope you realize you’re my ride-or-dies. There are no other people I’d rather be travelling down this road with.

To TNC staff, past and present, thank you for all the love, support, and community. Here’s to another successful season!

To Kizuna, where it all began and where I’ll always return. Thank you for being the mentors this coming generation deserves. And a special dedication to Craig, Stacy, & my Mama Bird, for seeing potential in an arrogant, selfish 14-year-old punk.

To all my KAPPAs, thank you for being the greatest friends anyone could ask for. I literally would never have made it here at USC without your support. Come home soon, Robin!

To Andy, you’re probably gonna give me an earful for including you here, but being mentored by you has absolutely changed the trajectory I was headed on when I first came to USC. Thank you for showing me what humility and openness should look like, and for taking the initiative to reach out to me as a freshman for coffee. You keep saying you didn’t know anything about anything at that time, but I learned more from you in under 6 months than I did in all my cumulative experience beforehand. Your power is limitless.

To Vanessa, I don’t even know where to begin when I express gratitude for how much you’ve transformed and enriched my time here. Your encouragement means everything, and it inspires me to be more compassionate, more engaged, and more honest with myself. I learn from you constantly, and it makes me giddy thinking about the prospects of what lies ahead.

To Ser & Kevin, you’ve both been with me every step of the way, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. I wouldn’t be able to build without y’all. 

To Cole, I love you with every fiber of my being. I work hard because of you. I come home every week because of you. And nothing in this world makes me happier than seeing you grow.

Finally, to Mom & Dad, for whom without I wouldn’t know how to be brave and courageous.

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Thank you Alex for all that you do. APASA could not be more excited to have you be highlighted as an APA leader. -USC APASA 

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