By Shaima Ahmad: VAHS Program Coordiantor
Photos Courtesy of Shaima Ahmad

This past weekend 9 AALEAD High School youth had the opportunity to attend the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference. This year, the conference was held at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. ECAASU brings together college students from across the East Coast and creates an environment for thoughtful dialogue and debate concerning important issues within the Asian American Pacific Islander community. These discussions are facilitated through keynote speakers, workshops, and panel discussions in which our youth were able to interact with their peers, college students, and leaders in the community.

The conference kicked off with the morning keynote session where our students took in stories brimming with inspiration and advice. These speakers included Hin Hon Wong – poet and activist, Genevieve Clutario – College Fellow in History at Harvard University, and Rakesh Khurana – Dean of Harvard College.  Soon after we navigated our way through the snowy paths of Harvard to Sever Hall in order to attend a number of dynamic workshops. Workshops varying from “Exploring Mixed Race Identities,” “Defining Asian American Identity through Comedy,” “Eastern vs. Western Values,” to “Food Culture and Racial Dynamics.” Besides actively engaging in various workshops our AALEADers were able to attend a panel discussion of their choice. Some of the panel discussions focused on “AAPIs in the Media,” “Beyond Pink and Blue-Breaking Binaries,” and “Deconstructing the Stigma of Mental Health in the AAPI Community.”

Volunteering at ECAASU has always been an integral part of the experience. Our group was assigned dinner duty, where we helped set-up and serve dinner alongside the college volunteers. After serving and enjoying an endless array of Thai, Japanese and Chinese cuisine we hopped on the complimentary shuttle service to Boston University to enjoy the closing ceremony. This event was highly anticipated by our youth and they thoroughly enjoyed a variety of performances by Jeni Suk, Hari Kondabolu, and Dark Matter, to name a few.

ECAASU 2015 enabled our high school youth to engage in eye opening dialogue and exposed them to a platform where they learned to discuss pivotal and at times difficult questions asked of themselves and their peers. Stay tuned for reflection posts from AALEADers who attended ECAASU!

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