Leadership Academy – Week 3 (Jeffery Jen)
This week was the third week of my internship and it was also our second civic leadership workshop, and what an amazing workshop it was! The generous organization that allowed us interns to use their office space for this week was none other than Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD).
Our panel of accomplished speakers working in community healthcare included Becky Lee, Policy Analyst for the Community Clinic Association; John Yi, Advocacy Director for the American Lung Association; and Connie Chung Joe, Executive Director for Korean American Family Services. Each one of these speakers made very powerful and distinct statements as to why APA involvement in health care and nonprofits is extremely important.
Becky gave a very good run through of the current health care situation in the United States, and I personally thought that it was very helpful. I did not really know too much about healthcare and its implications before coming to the civic leadership workshop. For me, it was a very humbling experience because I found that I really had to check my privilege since I am extremely lucky to not really have to worry too much about health care. The health benefits my father’s company provides for our family is very good. I realized that just because something like the ACA or other health care bills will not necessarily have a direct impact on me or my family, it does not mean that I should be ignorant or uninformed about healthcare. Health care affects millions of Americans, including the APA community, and it is my duty to stay informed and be an active part of the dialogue surrounding health care.
John Yi made very good points when talking the challenges APAs face in the formation of policies and allocation of resources. John mentioned how APAs are ever rarely at the table when people discuss how money and resources are distributed. As an example, he said that only one Asian-American group out of seventy or eighty groups is going to get funding from the newly implemented tobacco tax. His comment illustrates just how often APAs are excluded in the decision-making process.
Connie Chung Joe talked a lot about the model minority myth and its negative implications, such as how it lumps all APAs together even though there are large disparities between the different Asian narratives. I thought her discussion was extremely powerful and reaffirming. Ever since I have discovered what the model minority myth was, I have made a personal mission of mine to do my part in my limited capacity to slowly phase out the myth until it is no longer perceived by society as such a prevalent and seemingly natural idea.
After our lunch, Hyepin Im, who is the president of KCCD, added on to the discussion of the model minority myth by stating that the myth creates a perception that APAs don’t need help: especially mental health. She discussed the real-world implications of this, “Korean-Americans have one of the lowest rates of seeking [support] for mental health help, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t need the help.”
She also touched on the stigma attached to mental health in the APA community—something that I personally have had to deal with in the past, so it was great to hear that someone as influential as Hyepin was working to address this issue.
Finally, our last speaker was John Kobara, EVP & COO at the California Community Foundation, and his discussion shook me to my core. He asked us to tell us the lies that we tell ourselves and our parents when we are asked, “So what are you going to do.”
It really made me question whether or not I truly enjoy the subjects I am studying at school right now. One thing he said that really stuck with me was, “The way you know you’re interested in something is if you’re able to talk about it for 45 minutes straight.”
I was thinking, could I honestly really talk about politics or sociology for 45 minutes? Sports, sure, but politics or sociology? Probably not. I really began to have doubts about not just my current situation but also my future. Would I really enjoy law school or being a lawyer? After Mr. Kobara’s discussion, I’m not so sure I can say yes.
All in all, this week’s civic leadership workshop was both informative and inspirational. I learned so much from so many different people and it’s now up to me to put what I learned into action in my internship and beyond.