Week 9: Knowledge Worth A Lifetime

Than Mai of the 2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy

As my experience with the CAUSE Leadership Academy comes to an end, I often find myself taking a step back to reflect on the 9 weeks of the internship. These last few weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster. Starting with orientation week, to the Annual Capitol Summit, to our weekly Monday workshops, I have been privileged to essentially gain a lifetime’s worth of knowledge and perspective through CAUSE.

It really feels as though I just walked into the CAUSE office in Downtown Los Angeles for my in-person interview. Walking into this program, I remember the overwhelming feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and insecurities. Being the youngest and fresh out of high school, I felt underprepared and underqualified on our first day of orientation week. However, though only nine weeks have passed, I have redefined my passion for civic engagement and activism while developing a sense of confidence in my leadership abilities. Since day one, CAUSE staff member Richard Leong has told us, “You are all uniquely qualified to lead…We are building a world that has never existed before.” Only now do I truly understand what this means. Though I have yet to begin college or decide my career path, I am walking into my freshman year at the University of Los Angeles understanding that I am qualified to be a leader. CAUSE has taught me that being young does not make me any less qualified to be a leader in our community. I have learned that I am still capable of bringing about the change necessary to improve our community as a whole. Although many doubt the younger generation due to a lack of experience, CAUSE has shown that anyone can be a leader with the right mindset, intentions, and dedication.

Not only was I able to develop a new sense of confidence, but I was also able to learn a lot about myself. Being given the opportunity to listen to personal stories from the other CLA interns and staff members, I was able to determine my passions and define my own identity. Through this experience, I was able to appreciate my cultural background as a first generation Vietnamese American. Though I initially struggled to embrace both cultures, CAUSE has given me the opportunity to express my pride as a Vietnamese American while staying true to my own personal and familial values.

However, though there were significant lessons I learned within the last nine weeks, our last workshop allowed me to truly emotionally reflect and understand the new team of support I have found through CAUSE. Through hosting the Leadership Developmental Workshop: Dreams for the Asian Pacific American Community, fellow CAUSE staff members Richard Leong and Audrey Soriano helped me pinpoint my weaknesses to further improve my life. With their help, I have learned the significance of allowing myself to be vulnerable as it enables me to grow and move forward with an open mind.

As we near our graduation of the program, I cannot explain in words the effect CAUSE has left me. I am proud to be a part of this alumni network and to have been a part of the 2019 CLA cohort. Though the CAUSE Leadership Academy must come to an end, the relationships, lessons, and values that I have gained through it will always remain.