By Antwoine Johnson, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff
“As you move forward and plan your day, figure out what issues are important to you and what fuels your fire.”
– Christine Chen, Executive Director of APIAVote
These were the words of the first keynote speaker of this year’s FUEL Conference, as she encouraged everyone to make the most of the conference and really do some introspection as to what fuels their desire for change.
The FUEL Conference this year was a hit! The conference took place on Saturday, November 8 at the University of Maryland, College Park. Hosted by the University of Maryland’s Asian American Student Union, the conference focused on the life and accomplishments of one of the most important figures in Asian American advancement in America: Yuri Kochiyama. Yuri was a Japanese American hailing from the west coast who gave her life to promote the connection between minorities groups and fought for what she believed in. Yuri believed that everyone should be on equal grounds and have an equal voice. This magnificent woman has inspired generations and her legacy continues, even after her passing this past summer.
Fourteen AALEAD youth from MD Middle and High School Programs had the opportunity and privilege to be a part of a movement that encourages youth and young adults to let their voices be heard and to tear down the walls that would divide them. The conference encourages youth that their voices can be more powerful as they harmonize together for the sake of what they believe to be right, whether it be women’s rights, equal rights for all races, or just to simply see changes in their local neighborhoods. AALEADers attended workshops and received practical advice on how to tackle things like racism, bridging the gaps between minorities groups, how to create a change on your campus, and so much more.
After the conference, as a reflection, AALEADers concluded that they had learned a lot, drawing from those older than them and also just seeing Yuri living on in the lives of people who were not too much older than them. All in all, the FUEL conference was an amazing event that sparked the passion of change in our youth that will be sure to live on for years to come.