By Valerie Sizhe Li
The sixth Young Leaders Symposium (YLS) took place at Vietnamese American Community Center in Dorchester on Sept. 23. The event was co-hosted by the Massachusetts Asian American Commission (AAC) and Vietnamese American Initiative For Development (VietAID).
Aiming to promote leadership and service in both the public and private sectors among young adults, the annual symposium offers workshops and panel discussions on topics such as leading through conflicts and negotiation strategies.
“The commission’s goal is to recognize the vital contributions of Asian Americans. The social, economic, cultural and political diversity in the Asian American community,” said Nina Liang, Quincy city councilor and AAC co-chairwoman of YLS .
She emphasized the symposium’s goals are to engage young leaders and promote leadership. “We want to encourage civic participation and community engagement and to provide an opportunity for our youth to network with each other and network with Asian American leaders,” Liang said.
Jessica Tang, the first Chinese American president of the Boston Teachers Union, encouraged young Asian Americans to “not be afraid to take action.”
“Once you get into those positions, leadership is not easy. And often times, it’s counterintuitive,” Tang said. “For example, it is easier to just dictate then to collaborate once you become a leader. It’s often easier to write off dissent than to listen to merits when you’re challenged or someone disagrees with you; it’s hard sometimes to admit you might have made a mistake. That is the challenge for us as leaders. It’s not to do what is the easiest but to challenge ourselves to do what’s right.”
Dr. Elisa Choi, AAC chairwoman, awarded this year’s AAC scholarship to Suffolk University student Salina Sang for her outstanding work on immigrant rights and racial justice.
“Sometimes we are thought of as a model minority. We might be the fastest growing ethnic community in the United States and the Commonwealth but we are relatively underrepresented at all levels of leadership, whether it’s the executives in a company or the deans of academic institutions despite our various educational and financial achievements,” Choi said.
The one-day event gathered more than 80 attendees, including many college students who aspire to be leaders.
Karonika Brown, a former student of Middlesex Community College (MCC) in Lowell and founder of ASIA club at her school, said, “In my school, there used to be no student organization for Asians so last year we started a club that is inclusive of all Asian populations in MCC. Lowell has a high Cambodian population but we want to encourage all Asians to join us.”