Summer Intern Spotlight: Mei Tomko

Written and Photos by Mei Tomko, Mentoring Summer Intern

Hi everyone, I’m Mei Tomko (she/her), the 2022 Mentoring Program Summer Intern! I am ecstatic to join the AALEAD team this summer. I am a rising senior at American University majoring in International Relations with a concentration on Human Rights and East Asia.

I am a transracial Chinese American adoptee born in Guangdong Province and adopted to a small Pennsylvania town at 1.5 years old. Similar to many transracial adoptees, I was raised in a predominantly white area by a white family. Given that my town was 94% white, forming a healthy racial identity was extremely difficult growing up, leaving me feeling like a black sheep. With no place to exist authentically, I looked to the internet for comfort and community. My favorite YouTubers were Ryan Higa, Jenn Im, and Wong Fu Productions. Though I was too young to actively know I was in search of racial mirrors, I know now that I was simply longing to see faces that looked similar to my own.

Upon learning about AALEAD in 2020 when I became more engaged in the DC community, I felt an instant connection to AALEAD’s mission. I also felt a deep sense of responsibility to support the organization in whatever capacity I could. Thus, I am elated to join the team this summer supporting the mentoring program which offers guidance and support that I wish I could have had. Before college, I did not have an Asian American mentor figure so AALEAD’s focus on identity development and leadership is something that deeply resonates with me.

Looking forward, I hope to continue supporting Asian American communities. Specifically, I seek to raise awareness about the political, social, and emotional issues that transracial Asian adoptees face informed by my lived experience. I also look to combat human rights abuses such as human trafficking, racial violence, and gender-based violence in my work. In my free time, I love spoiling my dog, Polly, as a new dog mom, listening to podcasts, and cooking new recipes!

My dog Polly. She is a 5 year old Jack Russel-Dachshund rescue from Puerto Rico
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