Ari Pak

“What are you? No, but, where are you really from?”—I cannot quite recall the first time I was asked a version of this question. Whether as a mixed-race adolescent at Korean Church camp who couldn’t speak the language of my father’s homeland, or as a student struggling internally when forced to decide which box to check for the “Student Race” category on school forms—I have always known from experience that we all need a space to figure out who we are. When given a safe, supportive, and authentic space to ask that question of ourselves— “what am I?” – the question transforms from dangerous social territory into a realm of exploration and growth. Growing up mixed-race and queer, studying identity through psychological and sociological lenses at William and Mary, facilitating diversity and inclusion programs at William and Mary, contributing to LGBTQIA youth programs at SMYAL; all of these experiences guide my work supporting AALEAD youth in their quest to build their best selves. Everyone deserves a space to ask questions of identity and explore the answers. By accessing this safe space in programs, AALEAD youth build the skills they need to be successful community members and leaders even beyond their time at AALEAD.

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