The Asian American experience is an essential thread in the rich and ever-shifting fabric of American history and culture. We have laid railroad tracks, worked plantation fields, fought for civil rights and engineered technological miracles. Ours is an impossibly varied experience, with nuances born of geographic and temporal difference, neither easily parsed nor ever fully captured.
CAAM has partnered with AT&T to bring #StoriestoLight, a community storytelling campaign highlighting the diverse perspectives and experiences that comprise the APA community. From May and into August, continue to view and experience the rich collage of APA voices and images here with a new chapter every two weeks.
Chapter Five introduces Asian American students and their experiences with education. Read their thoughts on how their identity has influenced their school setting and how their education has been influenced by their families.
My family is the main propeller for my drive towards educational achievement because I feel the need to ensure that the struggles my family endured to give me these opportunities are not in vain. Whenever I feel like slacking off, I am always reminded of how much is at stake when connecting my failures and successes to my family and to the collective narrative of our community. In pursuing education, I hope to be so accomplished someday, that my family and I can finally sit back chillin’ for a quick second while I say, “Started from the village and killing fields, now we’re here! Look at how far we’ve come, Mom and Dad!
As an Asian American student, my motivation and aspirations are definitely driven by my family. My reasons to succeed include being able to provide for them so that they may live comfortable lives. Especially as I’ve witnessed their collective struggles growing up, I-almost without a second thought-have the desire to succeed for their benefit. My mother’s side of the family comes from the rural area of the Philippines, where kids from all ages don’t have the privilege of a higher education like I do, or even acceptable ways of living for that matter. My wish is to thrive for all of them. Furthermore, navigating academia shaped me to be more independent and more hard-working. It also taught me ti be so grateful for every family member that shows their support for me on social media when I share my experiences and accomplishments. not everyone could say they are as blessed and that is something I cannot take for granted. With that support behind me, my passion and goals to achieve feel so much more in reach.
My family has always played a large role in my education. Being one of the youngest and having been raised in a financially struggling family, figuring out what I was good at was a difficult task. For my family, danger was always around the corner in the form of violence or tragic accidents so my sphere of options and opportunities were never the largest so there were limits to what I was allowed to do and explore. The only thing that anyone thought that was okay for me to do was school so that was encouraged because as long as I stayed out of trouble and showed a promising future then there was nothing to worry about. At the same time, having seen my brothers disappoint my parents in one way or the other, I found that education was one way for me to repay them for their hard work so I strived to be better then my brothers when, in reality, I should’ve been striving to be my better self. My concentration in education was also a game. I had a younger sister to compete with and I couldn’t bear losing to her. I use to keep tallies of the things that she did that I hadn’t done yet just so I could remind myself to catch up. To my family, my education was about me but from the start it was always about them. It was always about giving them something to hold onto and to celebrate in a community where a lot of the days we woke up to sucked because there was never enough. I wanted to give back because my family had given me so much to put me through to UC Berkeley.
It was around a year ago when my passion for social justice was sparked while working with Helms Middle School students in Richmond, CA. When I first got to college I didn’t know what I wanted to do. However, 3 years with @letsrisementorship made me realize that what I wanted to do was to make the world a more equitable place for the youth. Every smile, laugh, and workshop with the mentees lifts me up and affirms my commitment for social justice.
When I was young, it seemed like many of my American friends were encouraged by their parents to follow their dreams and I thought it was unfair that I wasn’t receiving the same encouragement from my parents. In more recent years, it occurred to me that because my mom was born in Burma and my dad in Hong Kong, their top priority after coming to America was to assimilate, make ends meet and make sure there was a roof over my head. Often times, I tell my parents I want to pursue my love for plants and animals or anything outdoors really, and their immediate response is usually along the lines of “you’ll be happier if you are rich, study harder and you can be a doctor or lawyer”. They’ve tried countless amounts of times to convince me to change my major from ecological sciences to premed or nursing. I know they just want the best for me but sometimes it seems like they’ll never understand that pursuing my goals and my dreams will bring me more happiness than the highest paying job could ever bring to me