By Chelsea Iorlano, Development & Communications Associate
Photos courtesy of Victoria Gonçalves (GWU); Kayla Williams, Johnny Aruajo, GW MSSC Media Team
Hello, wonderful people! My name is Chelsea and I have just joined the community here at Asian American LEAD to serve as the Development & Communications Associate. I am thrilled to have been welcomed onboard the team and look forward to being a part of the incredible work that AALEAD has been able to accomplish in Asian American and youth community in the DMV area. I have been in DC now for four years, having attended the George Washington University, where I majored in English and Creative Writing. I came to DC from North Jersey, originally having been born in Southern California. My mother is a Mexican immigrant, and my father hails from Jersey, so growing up, I often felt my identity was split in two, with 3,000 miles in between that I did not always know how to navigate.
At GW, I initially pursued a major in Anthropology—I was eager to learn about the rest of the world and all the incredibly different people that live in it. Eventually, I realized I enjoyed learning about people and culture simply by getting involved in the multicultural students organizations alive on campus, and my love for creative writing was more than just a hobby– it was the best way I had of expressing myself in moments when my identity did not seem to be reflected in anything else around me, from the people I was in class with, to the faces I saw on TV. After taking several creative writing classes, I changed my course of study and majored in English and Creative Writing.
I also became invested in the multicultural student community on campus, with my first job being at GW’s Multicultural Students Services Center, or the MSSC. The MSSC is a home away from home for students of all backgrounds who are looking for a place in which they feel they belong. The staff there became family to me, as well as the Latino student organizations in which I took leadership roles. In my leadership positions, I was privileged to be a part of many cross-cultural collaborations with other organizations, as well as serve on the annual Latino Heritage Celebration committee that helps plan the University-wide celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
My time at GW highlighted to me that both my education and identity development are processes that are endlessly important and interconnected. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the AALEAD team and make educational empowerment and identity development accessible realities for the Asian American youth of the DMV area. Not only has my writing allowed me to grow into myself, I hope that now I can put my skills to use here at AALEAD to help the organization and its youth grow!
When I’m not at work, you can usually find me on a bus heading to an area in DC I have yet to explore, or to New York City or Philadelphia to visit friends and family. I love trying anything new and will always be willing to embark on a new adventure. My favorite things to do are watching and listening to live music, reading and writing, especially poetry, cooking and eating new food, running, and talking to people. Everyone has a story, and I try to hear as many of them as possible! I can’t wait to start this new chapter at AALEAD and hear your stories, too.