This week was orientation week for the CAUSE Leadership Academy and we learned a lot about what is expected of us from this program and how we are going to grow over the next few weeks. On the first day, I was nervous, partly because it was one of the first times I had driven in LA traffic and also because I had already been on summer vacation for a month and now I had to refocus and resettle into a professional environment.
I really enjoyed that besides the opening introductions, one of the first things we did as a group was get to know each other better by doing an icebreaker where we listed traits and opinions we had in common. My nerves started to calm and I remembered how exciting it is to meet other college students who are passionate about the same things you are.
During our discussions CAUSE Executive Director Kim Yamasaki used a great metaphor of a bowl of rice to discuss the importance of working together to serve one’s community. She shared an example of how politicians need to work with businesspeople and local leaders to bring great results to a community. She said, “It is not just about staying in power, but it’s about getting the rice to the table.”
We had lunch with some of the CAUSE Board, including CAUSE Chair Charlie Woo, CAUSE Vice Chair Wen Hong, CAUSE Secretary Ben Wong, and CAUSE Boardmember Kenny Yee. I admit that this luncheon was a little daunting as I wanted to make a good impression on such influential people, but these leaders were also great role models that reminded me to step outside my comfort zone to fight for Asian Pacific American experiences to be represented and to strive to be a leader in my own right. Although orientations can sometimes feel boring or very long, I really enjoyed my first day with CAUSE because I knew that I would receive training that would help solve any insecurities I had about working in a public office, and it really hyped me up for my jam-packed summer.
True to the beliefs that I left with on Monday, our retreat on Tuesday through Thursday, which was held in a really big and aesthetically pleasing house in Temecula, CA, addressed any additional fears I had about not being ready for what was expected of me. Through our numerous workshops, we expanded our knowledge on Asian American history, learned the differences between local and national issues and why addressing local issues also matters, and developed ways to connect with the various civic leaders we would meet during this program and beyond. Beyond these workshops, I also learned something really important during this retreat. I learned that the CAUSE staff really did want to see us grow as young Asian Pacific American leaders and they understood what it was like to be like us – to care about APA representation and issues while also being college students who feel nervous about entering the professional world. I realized that through my political internship and the various other opportunities to learn from community leaders this summer, CAUSE is going to give me the skillset I need to engage with my own communities.
On Friday, we had our CAUSE Leadership Academy Kickoff and my cohort and I all expressed a mixture of nervousness and excitement to speak in front of our community about what we expected from the program. I won’t lie, I was also very nervous about introducing myself and speaking in front of a large room full of current inspiring APA leaders and I felt a huge relief after I had spoken, but I was also reminded of the amount of support we had from these leaders. I was reminded that we are not alone and that our community leaders want to see us succeed and believe in us. I am so thankful that they want nothing else but to encourage the next generation of leaders who will continue to represent the Asian Pacific American community. So despite any feelings of being unprepared to take on the responsibilities and expectations of the CAUSE Leadership Academy, the first step to see change happen is to step up and fight for change because like a bowl of rice, it will take many people to work together to solve the issues that face the APA community today.