Hi again! Hope everyone's doing well with only one day left to get through before spring break! Anyways, as our headline says, our third APA Leader is Avalon Igawa! Avalon's heavily involved in the APA community being the President of SCAPE and a CIRCLE coordinator. It's hard to find someone with her passion and energetic personality! Read more about Avalon in our interview below:
Name: Avalon Igawa Major: Political Economy (Minor: Digital Studies) Year: Junior
What does being APA mean to you? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this question, and I realize that while it used to be really hard for me, it isn’t so much anymore. And I think that’s because I finally accepted that I don’t need a concrete answer and nobody else does either. It’s a beautiful identity because we can define it for ourselves and let it represent what we want. Wow, that sounded really cheesy, but I feel like it’s true! It took me a long time to accept that I could identify as Asian Pacific American and that I wasn’t erasing my mixed identity. I can be APA and I can be Irish American and I can be mixed. Because for me, being APA means that I can relate to the stories of other APAs and recognize the diversity of all the deep complex histories and narratives that have shaped so many of our experiences. Being APA represents hxstory and struggle, but most of all it represents community. And that’s what I love about it so much.
Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. At USC I started off my first semester by participating in Critical Issues in Race, Class, and Leadership Education (CIRCLE), an APA leadership and character development program through APASS. Little did I know that this choice would end up forging a path for the rest of my undergrad experience. From my OG CIRCLE experience ( Outside of USC, I had the privilege of participating in Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics’ (LEAP) Leadership in Action internship program last summer. LEAP helped me grow so much as a leader and facilitated my work as a summer intern as the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center in West Covina. I’m a member of Yamaguchi Kenjinkai Los Angeles, a group that celebrates heritage and connects Japanese Americans from the prefecture of Yamaguchi with each other and with others around the world. I’m also the house of delegate representative for the Konko Church of Whittier-Rose Hills and serve as the Secretary for the Konko Churches of North America House of Delegates.
What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders? Never be satisfied and never stop growing. I believe that leadership is an ever evolving skill that takes a different shape given the circumstances of any given situation. I know that I’m a very different leader with four hours of sleep than I am with eight, so if I mentally prepare knowing my natural tendencies or weakness, I can work to prevent things I don’t want to happen before I’m working with other people. Obviously that’s an ideal situation and often I don’t realize I’m doing something until it’s too late, but by having really honest dialogues with my peers and by listening to feedback, I feel like I’ve really grown with confidence as a leader. More so in confidence that I know that I’m not perfect, but I have a lot of supporters who are pushing me to be better, and by admitting that I’m a work in progress, I will continue to grow.
In regards to specifically APA leaders, I really advise doing some serious reflection about yourself. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to be a leader who could tell a story that related to everyone, but instead that the only narrative I was responsible for was my own. And I’m still figuring out what I want to say, but by taking the time to learn some of my family hxstory and consider my experiences growing up, I feel much more comfortable speaking up. And with that knowledge, I can also work to open spaces and lift up other voices so that other important and especially marginalized perspectives are being heard.
Tell us how you got here. How did you first get involved with the APA community? I was really lucky to have a club for Asian Pacific students at my high school (shout-out to LAPS!) and that was where I first started talking about what it meant to be APA. However, I would say I first got involved with the APA community through my church community. I’m part of a small Japanese religion, Konkokyo, and every summer there is a conference hosted by the Konko Churches of North America. I didn’t realize it till much later, but being surrounded by so many APAs for that weekend, specifically other youth the week prior, really gave me a sense of belonging. People came from all over the country with very different stories and struggles, but we all came together with much more in common than just our faith. Growing up seeing such a diversity of APA role models encouraged me to never doubt my ability, while also exposing me to individuals working on different issues that the APA community faces, such as language barriers. Those experiences made me more comfortable identifying with the APA community and is part of the reason why I joined CIRCLE, the program that acted as a catalyst for the rest of my involvement.
What would be one change you would like to see at USC? In the APA community? WAHHH so many changes let’s be real. The authors of the campus climate resolution more eloquently explain a lot of those really important ideas, so I think I’ll just expand on a general attitude change I wish to see at USC. In general, I’ve found that a lot of USC students appear apathetic about issues on campus not because they don’t actually care, but because they’re very focused on their own world. As students we have homework to do, careers to think about, and tons of opportunities in the form of clubs and organizations to add to our schedules. However, we also share the common ground of attending this institution and that makes me believe that it’s possible for the Trojan Family to be something other than a catchphrase thrown around and emphasized at networking events. What about the Trojan family that you share sidewalk space with every day? I wish that more of us had conversations with strangers on campus and just listened to each other’s stories and supported each other, especially in times of need. Like, why are we not all outraged when someone speaks up about not feeling safe on campus? Why is it only football that seems to bring an influx of camaraderie on campus? I can’t really say I want people to care more, because a lot of students just don’t have the capacity too. But I guess I just hope that all students will remember to care at all and that more solidarity is built on campus. We’re all out here and we’re all struggling, so why can’t we spread a little more love and support to one another, especially when someone is asking for it. I don’t know if that made sense, but yeah, I’d like to someday see a community that is more committed to one another and that pushes itself to grow as a whole. And in the APA community? I just want everyone to do CIRCLE. So be sure to apply this fall when the app comes out!
What motivates and inspires you? I feel like my day to day motivations are constantly evolving, but the constant that is always there is my family. It’s just one of those things that isn’t on the forefront of my mind, but the idea of making them proud is inherently intertwined in my goals. My family also inspires me, as do many of the people around me. There are so many individuals that I interact with on a day to day basis that are so amazing and living such inspiring lives that I’m just like sh*t (can I swear in this?), how can I not want to go out and encapsulate some of that spirit. AGH humans are so beautiful and wonderful and there are so many people who I get to see all the time that I take for granted and then it just hits me how freakin’ incredible they are and its magnificent. Wow, definitely getting the feels right now. But yeah, people. From the ones I see every day to the speakers that come on campus to the ones I only read about, it may be different every time, but they’re the ones that inspire me.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? There are so many places I hope to someday visit, but I think the most realistic and meaningful one on my mind right now is Japan. While I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Ireland and meet family there, I’ve never been to Japan. Both are places I feel so inexplicably tied to because of my family’s hxstory and the cultural practices I was taught in America. I don’t really have expectations of what I would take away from such a trip, just that I know I’d like to someday experience it firsthand. I’d also love to connect with the growing “hafu” or mixed community there and discuss how my hapa experiences in America may align or differ. My grandparents are planning a big trip with all the grandchildren in 2018, which I’m looking forward too especially because travelling with so much family will just be a great adventure. Until then I’ll attempt to re-learn Japanese and distract myself with my Bachan’s cooking.
APASA: Huge shout-out to all you wonderful people and all the hard work that y’all do! Thank you for still letting me be an APA leader despite me turning in these questions so late. I really wish I could nominate many of you because y’all are APA leaders that inspire me!!!
APASS: Ugh how do I even express how much the APASS fam has shaped my college experience?!? My home away from home, thanks for always being such a supporting rock that never makes me feel guilty for my short visits, for having an open couch for guilt free naps, and for creating such a special community.
CIRCLE: From OG Thursdays (and my OG TAs/Coords/Frendz Ted+Susan), to my Mondays, to my TA crew + Rex + Jon, thank you for helping me grow so much and always pushing me to think in different ways!
SCAPE fam: Past and present, you all have taught me so much!!! I would seriously not be the person I am today without so many of you to look up to and without your care. We’ve been through so many ups and downs and I’m so thankful for it all.
The White House: y’all are my rocks. Would not have made it this far without you two <3
Frisbee crew: Thanks for supporting me and coming out so many times to learn about those others things I do.
Fam: Can’t really do any justice saying anything on here, but I love y’all
To everyone who read this: Sorry that was such a doozy, but thanks for taking the time to check me out! Now take a well-deserved spring break ☺
Thanks again to Avalon for taking time out of her busy schedule for our interview! We are so lucky to have you involved in the APA community!
Well there is only one day until the form closes, so if you know any potential APA Leaders, nominate them here by tomorrow: http://goo.gl/forms/bTCTJhz9Rx