By Sharon Choi & Chelsea Iorlano, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
Last Friday, May 8, AALEADers had an amazing opportunity to meet with the University of Maryland Men’s Basketball Team’s Varun Ram. Varun, a guard for the Maryland Terps, received media attention during the NCAA Tournament in March where he made a crucial defensive play, allowing the team to make a 65-62 win against Valparaiso. While he has received attention for being 1 of 5 Indian Americans in the nation to play for a Division 1 basketball team, Varun said in a Washington Post article that “…in terms of the way I train and my outlook, I really don’t like to think about it. Race is only skin-deep.”
We were inspired by his story and journey as a basketball player who overcame the challenges and pressures of being Asian American as he pursued his dreams. Many of us are able to relate to the challenges that come with the model minority stereotype cast against Asian Pacific Americans. With May being National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, this event provided an opportunity to examine and discuss how Asian Pacific American identity and representation in basketball has impacted Varun’s experience.
AALEAD youth learned about Varun during programs and had a chance to submit questions for a question and answer session during the event on Friday. Varun was able to share his experiences and give the youth valuable insight about working hard, setting high standards and expectations for oneself, regardless of what the outside pressures and expectations may be, and staying motivated and passionate along the way.
Everyone was excited to hear from Varun, who emanated positivity and humility. Youth also had a chance to shoot hoops with Varun and a fellow teammate, center Damonte Dodd, following the Q&A session right on the Xfinity Center Court! The event allowed our youth to interact with someone that they can look up to as a role model and inspiration for how to pursue their own dreams without other people’s perceptions or expectations limiting what our youth can dream for their futures.
A special thank you to Varun, Damonte, Jamal, and Jonathan from the UMD basketball team, Janelle and UMD’s Asian American Studies Program, and our alumni hosts Marjan and Jackey, for helping to make this event a success for our young people!