By: Roselyn Buensuceso, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Roselyn Buensuceso and AALEAD Staff
Hi, everyone! My name is Roselyn Buensuceso (pronounced Rose-lyn Bwen-soo-seh-so), and I am very excited to be the new MD Middle School Program Coordinator for AALEAD!
I’m from Norfolk, VA and went to school at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. I recently graduated with a double major in Kinesiology & Health Sciences w/ a Public Health concentration and self-designed major in Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies (but as of this May, it’s an officially recognized major)!
My coursework in APIA was unintentional, as I didn’t exactly come to college planning to learn about my Fil-Am and Asian-Am identities. However, there were many times growing up when I grappled with my heritage, and even took it for granted. I was not taught the Tagalog language because my parents didn’t want me to struggle assimilating at school. Because of this, I can barely understand when my parents speak Tagalog at home or with my relatives. When I go to visit my Lola (grandmother) in San Francisco, I can’t communicate with her. Having this language barrier along with the physical barrier of distance has made it difficult for me to develop a close relationship with my grandparents, and the only stories I learned about my family history were through my parents’ retelling. Essentially, my connections to Filipino culture were through food and the presence of my Filipino schoolmates, who were all in the same boat.
Since William & Mary is a predominantly white university, there were many instances in which I was the only Asian American, or even person of color in a classroom. I joined the Filipino American Student Association with hopes of connecting with the Filipinx community and sought out other organizations who were committed to celebrating diversity. As an upperclassman, I also took on leadership roles that were very visible to the college community and were mainly occupied by non-POC (such as being an Orientation Aide) so that younger students of color could have a resource to connect with who actually looked like them.
During my freshman year, many of the older members in FASA recommended that I take a class with Professor Francis Tanglao-Aguas – the only Filipinx professor in the College at the time (but don’t worry, now we have a whopping two (2!) faculty members). Let’s just say that after a couple of semesters filled with Professor Aguas saying, “Roselyn, you should take this class next,” I was soon filling out paperwork to declare my APIA major!
It was so surreal reading about the history and theoretical frameworks that connected to my life and experiences. A lot of my learning and unlearning was discovering the vocabulary to describe a feeling or life experience that I never thought I’d be able to articulate.
I didn’t think I would find an outlet to share that pedagogy with other people within and beyond the APA community – but then came along AALEAD! As a first generation college graduate who grew up working class, I was drawn to AALEAD’s mission and vision.
When I started my new job as a Middle School Program Coordinator, I had the opportunity to support the Maryland’s summer program this July. It gave me the chance to be in the space with youth, some of whom I’ll be working with this upcoming school year! I found myself easily connecting with them, not only because of our shared identities, but because of our similar socioeconomic positions. It was comforting to feel that sense of solidarity with youth and letting them know they weren’t alone. One thing I quickly learned is that as a youth development worker, we are often the very first people to introduce complex topics to our youth. Giving them a safe space to navigate, reflect on, and become confident in their identities and histories is so important and I wish a program like this existed when I was younger.
I also got to know the youth this summer through energizers, workshops, cooking lessons, and field trips! I enjoyed it so much, that I immediately jumped into my very first project: the end of summer recap video. I had fun compiling and editing the video because I was able to reminisce on the 5 week program that flew before my eyes and I could literally watch on the screen how much these AALEADers have grown in such a short time. Not only did I come out this final week more confident in my abilities to connect with youth, I also made 39 awesome new friends!
With the school year fast approaching, I can’t imagine a more supportive community to have around me. I’m so excited to whoa (MD inside joke) with my new AALEAD family!
P.S. If you are interested, here are some random and wholesome facts about me: