In Penn Current: White House briefs students on Asian-American youth issues

By Jeanne Leong | January 13, 2012 | via Penn Current Some Penn student leaders got a lesson in activism by attending a meeting in Washington, DC on the Obama administration’s agenda for Asian-American and Pacific Islander youth.

Fourteen Penn students attended a daylong summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, on Jan. 12 for a Youth Leadership Briefing.

The meeting brought together approximately 200 student leaders from universities and high schools across the nation to hear about President Obama’s initiatives on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, discuss possible future programs, and share information about activism on their campuses.

“It’s a great chance for us to learn more from each other and bring back our experience to Penn,” says Michelle Leong, a junior in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and chair of Penn’s Asian Pacific Student Coalition, the umbrella organization for 19 groups representing the interests of the Asian Pacific American community.

“After hearing all these stories from a lot of different students, I feel more inspired to do more work on behalf of those who aren’t able to express their opinions or stories as openly as others, or don’t have the opportunities as we do here at Penn,” says Leong.

Before this meeting, some students weren’t aware of the President’s agenda for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“The connections will help us because this is another resource we can tap into,” says Shawn Chen, also a junior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “One of the speakers was a Penn alum, and they said they would be happy to come to Penn to hold a workshop on student activism. That’s definitely something we’d like to make use of.”

Chen says the meeting inspired him to encourage fellow students to become activists.

“There are a lot of things that won’t happen during your time [on campus]. You have to pass along that information and make sure there are other people you can reach out to and say, ‘This is a really important issue on campus.’ You have to fight for these issues because change doesn’t happen overnight.”

The students hope the dialogue started at this meeting will continue. Obama administration organizers discussed holding regional meetings in the future.

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