Los Angeles, CA – On June 23rd, 2017, CAUSE held the Leadership Academy Kickoff Press Conference at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
Annie Chang Long, Manager of Advisory Services at Nonprofit Finance Fund and former Leadership Academy intern, opened the Leadership Academy Kickoff Press Conference by talking about the growth and resources she received through CAUSE. She thanked the parents in the audience for encouraging their children to pursue careers in civic engagement and shared, “If you keep pursuing the things you’re passionate about and you do good work, success will come in different forms.”
Kim Yamasaki, Executive Director of CAUSE, talked about how inspired she is by the 2017 Leadership Academy class and how far the Leadership Academy program has come since its inception over 20 years ago. She encouraged the interns and pushed them to see that “politics is only a means to an end for helping to elevate the greatest needs in the community.”
Tammy Tran, Government Affairs Representative at Southern California Edison (a longtime sponsor of the Leadership Academy), highlighted the importance of supporting organizations like CAUSE as the population, representation, and buying power of the APA community continues to increase: “The API community is growing. We are here. We’re huge. The API community makes up 30% of Southern California Edison’s customer base. We have more elected officials at the local, state, and federal level than at any other time in the history of California and in the United States. We’re growing in population. We’re growing in consumer buying power. So the API community is huge, and we’re very diverse.” She told the interns, “You represent a very important, powerful population that’s growing.”
Annie Yee, President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance – Los Angeles Lodge (a longtime sponsor of the Leadership Academy), expressed her enthusiasm in supporting this year’s class of interns: “You only have 9 weeks; it is long, but you have to enjoy it.”
Charlie Woo, Board Chair of CAUSE, shared the impact of the Leadership Academy program in fostering the growth of future APA leaders. He encouraged the 2017 Leadership Academy class to connect with their community leaders to build a strong network focused on empowering the APA community. He stated, “I’m not going to tell you to get a seat at the table; I’m gonna urge you to move along that table so that you’re not just going to have a seat, but so that you’re going sit at the head of the table. And if you have built enough influence, you can change the table, change agenda, and that’s what we are driving at. We are not satisfied with what the previous generation expects us to do.”
The Honorable Mike Eng of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees delivered the keynote speech, highlighting each intern’s unique endeavors and connected them to overarching issues faced by the APA community. He praised the intern class for their drive in tackling today’s social and economic problems, stating that contrary to popular belief, “millennials define leadership as ‘empowering others to succeed.’”
Afterwards, each intern briefly introduced themselves to the community and shared their personal experiences as an APA and their reasons for joining the Leadership Academy.
Anna Katrina Alvarado, a double-major in African American Studies and Asian American Studies and a rising senior at California State University, Los Angeles, started by introducing the reason for her studies: “Many people have asked me why I have chosen these majors, or really question its applicability to the real world. However, my field of study has grounded what I have held true my whole life: the importance of inclusion, community, and education.”
Katrina will be interning at the Office of California State Assemblymember Chris Holden.
Sylvia Guan, an English major and M.S. candidate in Social Policy and a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania, expressed, “To me, embracing my Asian American identity means embracing a political one, and as we see more injustices occurring in the media today, I ask myself, and my community, what are we doing to combat them?” She believes that the CAUSE Leadership Academy will give her the experiences and resources to better advocate for marginalized communities.
Sylvia will be interning at the Office of California State Senator Josh Newman.
Sabrina Inoue, a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major and a rising junior at the University of Michigan, shared how she became interested in the Leadership Academy. She explained, “Moving from LA to Michigan, I realized that for the first time, I was one of the only APA people in my classes and I started to question my identity as an APA and how I’m representing my community in these settings.” She hopes that through her summer with CAUSE, she’ll become more informed about APA issues and learn how to better empower herself and the community.
Sabrina will be interning at the Office of California State Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi.
Jeffery Jen, a Sociology major with a minor in Politics and a rising sophomore at Pomona College, relayed his personal story of how he became interested in politics and civically engaged. He shared, “I was really lucky to have a dad who taught me the importance of being politically informed… My goal this summer is to be able to take the inspiration that my father gave me, along with the lessons and experiences that I’ll be gaining at CAUSE, to be able to return to my local community and the Asian American community.”
Jeffery will be interning at the Office of US Congressmember Judy Chu
Nayada “Mint” Katavetin, an Economics major and a rising junior at the University of California, Berkeley, talked about her experience with the Thai community and how that led her to apply for the Leadership Academy. She explained her increasing awareness and said, “I began to notice how incredibly underrepresented the Thai community was even in LA, the city with the largest Thai population outside of Thailand. And I realized that this wasn’t a problem just for the Thai community, but also for the larger APA community as well.”
Mint will be interning at the Office of Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Diana Lam, a Political Science major and a rising sophomore at Wellesley College, relayed how Charlie Woo, CAUSE Board Chair, inspired her interest in government: “When I was 15 years old, I attended an event in which Mr. Woo was the keynote speaker and he talked about why it was important to be civically engaged. Something he said has stuck with me ever since. He said that no matter what your interests are, the actions of the government pertain to you.”
Diana will be interning at the Office of California State Assemblymember Ed Chau.
Hanah Lee, a Political Science and Economics major and a rising sophomore of Yale University, explained how her identity as an APA shaped her interest in making positive change for the APA community. She shared, “I really concerned my parents when at the age of four I drew myself as blonde and blue-eyed because that was all I saw on TV. But the beauty of the [San Gabriel Valley] is that as I grew older I realized that it was really easy to learn, experience, and truly be proud of my heritage. When I got to college, I learned that it wasn’t always the same experience for some of my other Asian American friends. That really hurt, because my identity is such an integral part of who I am, and also a large part of why the leadership academy is so important to me.”
Hanah will be interning at the Office of California State Senator Ed Hernandez.
Dim Mang, a double-major in Political Science and International Studies and a rising sophomore at the University of Michigan, highlighted her father’s political activism in Burma and how it translated to her own interest in civic engagement: “My identity as a first generation immigrant and a first generation college student in the United States has largely shaped who I am, so I hope to learn more about how Southeast Asian Americans can better contribute to the larger APA community.”
Dim will be interning at the Office of California State Controller Betty Yee.
Erika Ngo, a Psychology major with a minor in Chinese and a rising senior at Whittier College, brought up a recent psychology course she took regarding the threats of stereotyping and its effect on minorities. She shared the impact the class had on her, stating “It was through this that I realized how much I really needed to become involved with the Asian Pacific American community and it was actually what motivated me to do that.”
Erika will be interning at the Office of California State Treasurer John Chiang.
Sonia Romero, a Business Administration major within the World Bachelor in Business Program and a rising sophomore at the University of Southern California, introduced herself by briefly sharing her experience as an Asian Pacific American who grew up in Hawaii. When asked during her Leadership Academy interview what she felt the difference was between being an Asian American in Hawaii and being an Asian American as a part of a majority on the mainland, she responded, “I was completely lost and had no idea on how to answer it, and that made me realize that I had really taken for granted a lot of the privileges that came along with being an Asian American within a majority.” Through this internship, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the wide range of barriers faced by the APA community.
Sonia will be interning at the Office of US Congressmember Adam Schiff.
Stephanie Sun, a Political Science major and a rising sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, referred to community leaders as her inspiration for wanting to give back to the community. She recalled, “I had leaders in my community who I looked up to and I saw [them] take charge and try to inspire the youth.” She hopes her internship will provide her the necessary growth to become a community leader like those she admired.
Stephanie will be interning at the Office of US Congressmember Mimi Walters.
Eric Thai, a Political Science and Public Service major and a rising sophomore at the University of California, Davis, shared his honest feelings about the recent election and how it sparked his passion for researching partisan cooperation in government, stating “I am so honored to be a part of this amazing Leadership Academy as hope to gain various skills and practical experience that will supplement my knowledge pool for my future endeavor for [pursuing a] Ph.D.”
Eric will be interning at the Office of California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
Allison Vo, a double major in Ethnic Studies and Sociology with a concentration in Social Inequality and a rising senior at the University of California, San Diego, relayed her personal story about immigrating to the United States from a refugee camp in Malaysia. She stated, “Today, I am grateful to be here with my cohort to see you all, and to work for the office of Congressmember Lou Correa so that we can work collectively to solve the issues in our community.” In the future, she hopes to “bridge the gap between our ethnically diverse communities and to pursue a J.D. in immigration law” in order to better support immigrant families just as how she felt supported by the other families that helped her own.
Allison will be interning at the Office of US Congressmember Lou Correa.
Helen Yu, a double major in International Comparative Studies (with a focus on East Asia) and in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and a rising senior at Duke University, brought up the personal struggles she faced with her Asian Pacific American identity. She shared, “For most of my life, I’ve heard people tell me what I can and cannot do because of my race. For the longest time, hearing these things made me loathe my DNA. And I would wonder, ‘Why am I Asian.’” These past thoughts encouraged Helen to search fervently for Asian Pacific American role models and she now hopes to take an active role in shaping the future of the Asian Pacific American community.
Helen will be interning at the Office of California State Senator Ben Allen.
Olivia Zheng, an English major and a rising sophomore at Amherst College, talked about the culture shock she experienced when she, having grown up in an Asian Pacific American community, moved to the East Coast. She recalled, “This past year, I’ve learned so much about the diverse and different experiences of Asian Americans: how hard it is to community organize and the importance of coalition building.” Through the Leadership Academy, Olivia hopes to “gain access to the resources, to the knowledge, and to the connections” that will help her become a better leader for her community.
Olivia will be interning at the Office of Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu.
We’d like to thank our sponsors for supporting the 2017 class of Leadership Academy interns.