The Stereotypes We Face: A Reflection By DC’s Youth Program Assistants

By Kaeli Patchen

As Youth Program Assistants (YPAs), high school youth are responsible for assisting program coordinators with administrative tasks and program facilitation. In addition to participating in YELP! Programs with middle school youth, they also attend weekly intern meetings where they plan for future goals and projects. During one such meeting this semester, YPAs Belinda J, Han C, and Shuting Z decided to facilitate a workshop around stereotypes for middle school youth. They focused on discussing identity issues because they had experienced similar issues when they were in middle school. Facilitating this workshop gave them the opportunity to flex their leadership skills and allowed them to leave a positive impact on youth in the MS program. 

The workshop included a survey that asked youth to reflect on the stereotypes they experience, as well as an opportunity for youth to combat those stereotypes through art. The topics that each piece addressed ranged from stereotypes around the physical appearance of API people, assumptions about the differences between genders, and discussion of the increased discrimination and violence that AAPI people have faced due to stereotypes around COVID-19. Featured below are reflections from the YPAs, as well as some of the middle school youth art pieces.

What was the goal of the workshop?

Shuting: “The goal for this project was to give youth more confidence and give them ways to face [stereotypes] together.” 

Belinda: “We were creating art to combat the stereotypes that are given to us, a way to stand up for ourselves, and a way to become more aware. With the surveys we tried to point out what the most common stereotypes are and why we pointed them out, because of their harmful impact. It was a hands on project so youth could put themselves in the situation.”

What did you observe from looking at the art pieces the youth created?

Han: “Most of the stereotypes are pretty common, but it kind of made me reflect more on the stereotypes.”

Belinda: “The one that sticks out to me the most was the [piece] on the virus. It’s impactful because it happened recently, and I saw in the news that Asians have been harassed. The small eyes stereotype has been around for a long time, and COVID is more recent.”

Shuting: “The [virus] stereotype has resulted in more than just what people think, but a deeper thing is because people think that way, a lot of Asians were beat up because other people thought they brought COVID. There are people who think these stereotypes are real.”

Han: “What makes a stereotype matter more is how they impact society as a whole.”

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