Advocacy Coordinator Kathryn Quintin writes a thoughtful reflection on her experience at Youth Leadership Week, WHIAPIA's Youth Forum, and National Board retreat.
So I was in Washington DC this past week, and it was an journey to say the least. I had no clue what I was getting into, who I would meet, the experiences, connections, or the realizations I would have. It was a culture shock, to say the least. From my lack of basic knowledge of public transportation (AKA getting lost on the metro for over an hour), hailing down taxi cabs, bathrooms with keypads, or reading maps, my Floridian soul could not handle the big city life.
Besides all this, I was in DC for the ECAASU's Youth Leadership Week in tandem with WHIAAPI's Youth Forum, and ECAASU's National Board Retreat. All of these events had me reflecting and pushing my limits and knowledge of who I am now, who I want to be, and where can I go from here. I have learned three key things from my six days in Washington DC:
- I am not alone in the fight.
- One person can make a difference.
- Community can and will be the driving force for change.
These are the three common ideas that bridged the entire week together, at least for me. These ideas helped shaped my growth from who I was to who I want to be.
When I was first thrown down the rabbit hole of social justice, I naturally was angry.
Angry because of injustice.
Angry because no one understood myself and my struggles.
Angry because I felt my voice was silenced.
Angry because of apathy
Angry because everyone told me to be angry.
This internal battle has been a prevalent part of my life for the past year, and within the past few months I have been pushing myself to break my bonds of anger, which has not been easy. In a society that over glorifies being angry as the driving force for change. I felt that without my hatred for the privileged society I would fall into apathy and become what I despised the most, apathetic (which is another story in itself). There was no middle, just extremes. This week, I feel like I can finally say that I can close that door and start a new chapter in my life that is constructive instead of destructive. Building not burning.
Enough with the intangibles, onto the stories. For various reasons I started the week a day late, so my week started on Tuesday. I felt that the moment I walked through the door, I belonged. I was thrown into a round table discussion (with a literal round table) about mental health and self care with the wonderful Dr. DJ Ida from NAAPIHMA. It was an uplifting and informal discussion that went into several avenues that lasted two hours longer than it was originally blocked for (so a total of four hours!!). Topics ranged from self care, to being the therapist friend, to harder subjects such as suicide. The dialogue was strongly built on individual stories and experiences, and it had pushed me to think about what I can do on a personal and professional level to promote mental health and self care awareness, as well as being an advocate for others. Without even knowing these people's names, I learned about their personal struggles, I learned about their friends struggles, and it helped me come to terms with my personal demons.
The next day focused on policy. This was the more of the 'running around meeting people' type of day. The morning focused on voting rights, opportunities, and ways to have the APIA community be a collective voice. From there we went to meet Dr. Franklin Odo at the Japanese Memorial and we talked about the stories behind the creation of the memorial, rang gongs, and listened to Dr. Odo being unintentionally sassy. Afterwards we met with APIA leaders on the Hill and their personal stories of how they got to where they are, and what they are doing now. We ended our day at CAPAL with the topic of coalition building and how we can work together as a community.
Thursday was Youth Forum with WHIAAPI. Seeing so many APIA youth come together for a common event was uplifting and inspiring. Not only did we focus on different issues such as immigration, mental health, and education. (They also released their new program which can be found here).We also had dialogue about regional issues (i.e. What are problems the APIA community face in the south opposed to the west coast?), and what can we do to create a positive, sustainable change.
Lastly, Friday we went to the career fair briefly and wandered the town in the morning, and in the evening we as a collective met up again to talk about our personalities. This day, was one of the highlights of the entire week for me. My sense of self was in overdrive and if having an overwhelming sense of clarity was a thing, then that is what I felt. We had the chance to take a professional level personality test. Most of the time when I take these tests, I generally know what I'm going to get: a dominant, extroverted personality that has lots of vision and is way too sarcastic for her own health and needs to calm down. I used to hate personality tests, because they always focused on why I need to change to conform into the 'perfect' leader, rather than you are a leader this is your personality, now use what is said here to be more self aware of how your personality effects your decision making, and how it can shape your leadership and collaborative styles. Hearing others' leadership styles opposed to mine and how they interlocked with each other, truly helped me grow as a leader in my own community.