On August 2, the Mayoral Internship interns attended the Pathway Foundation Annual Conference 2019: Road to College and Beyond. This three-and-a-half-hour conference tackled topics such as the Chinese American identify, equity and college. It featured prominent speakers such as White House speechwriter and policy adviser for President Bill Clinton, Eric Liu, as well as the Bellevue School District Superintendent Dr. Ivan Duran.
Throughout this conference, one stand-out speaker was Eric Liu, a speechwriter for Bill Clinton and CEO and co-founder of Citizen University. Liu came to speak primarily on one topic: how all of us can claim our place and our power in civics. To tackle this daunting concept, his speech was split up into three sections.
The first focused on what it means to claim our ‘American Identity’. In our community, the question of ‘where are you from?’ is often used to isolate those who do not look like the norm. However, the true nature of American Identity is not where our ancestors are from. As Liu states, “this is a nation based on a creed, a set of ideas and promises”. In order to ‘claim’ your American identity, you must live up to the creed and all that it stands for. By being Americans, we all have the power and responsibility to make change happen in the idea of the American creed; to live up to the creed, we have to try. In our country, there is no such thing as ‘someone else’s problem’.
Next, Liu referred to the idea of having character, and what that means in the context of your identity. Character in the collective, he states, means “caring about the social issues: compassion, reciprocity, mutuality, about us and the long horizon of time”. Essentially, having character boils down to the responsibility of us to each other to build and pass on knowledge and power. This works in tangent with the idea of asking ‘why not’ and ‘what if’ in order to keep progressing and catalyzing change in our society. The primary purpose of an internship such as the Pathway Foundation’s is to “gain an understanding of what it means to be an insider of power”, Liu says. When you are able to shadow lawmakers and civic leaders, you understand what it means to be in a place of power and how to claim that.
Going back to the idea of identity, Liu finished his speech by talking about our Chinese identity and how that fits in with our American counterpart. He highlighted the history of Chinese descendants- how we must “remember our place in a long line of history and traditions: Confucian values, Confucian thinking, this is our identity”. In America, the competitive advantage is that America makes Chinese Americans, while China does not make American Chinese. The very basis of the Asian American identity if America’s so-called ‘secret sauce’, and our place in America has been secured through our actions and promises. When we learn how to live and create and organize like citizens, our country moves one notch closer to living up to its promise and we move closer to proving ourselves as citizens.
The next speaker, Interlake’s IB Coordinator Karen Roper, spoke on the Path to College and how students should realistically be facing it. In her speech, she started off by describing the culture and stigma that exists around college, especially in Asian and immigrant households. “Immigrants value education” Roper announced, before elaborating that this may be related to the fact that “in the United States, education has the power to change everything”. Colleges in this country, especially, value a broad spectrum of accomplishments that allow students to achieve no matter what background they come from.
Following this, Roper began to teach the audience what factors mattered most when considering which colleges to apply to and how to build a resume that colleges are attracted to. She highlighted the importance of taking the time to “know the colleges you’re applying to”. It is not necessary to get your degree from Harvard or Yale if those schools will not support you or allow you to succeed in the ways you want to.
When it comes to standing out from all the other applicants and forcing colleges to notice you, Roper had a basic method that could separate you from the rest of the crowd: find what you’re passionate about and let that passion shape how you interact with your community. Although grades and coursework are important, far too many students will have perfect SAT scores or push themselves to do the hardest courses. Extracurriculars allow the students that will be accepted to be split from those who are simply good students. When students use passion in their extracurriculars and activities, it shows genuine “school and community involvement” that prove to the college that this student has what it takes to make an impact on their world.
Finally, Roper finished the lecture by stating that “every town has so much to offer to all of its citizens and community members… take time to find what programs fit you”.
The BSD Panel of our second annual conference provoked profound thoughts and unadulterated honesty. It started by introducing the members. Introductions tend to be brief and informative. You may think that introductions can’t venture into inspiring, provocative territory. Francine Wiest proved that notion wrong. Ms. Wiest, a member of the BSD Board, remarked on her identity of a biracial American, “I am the daughter of immigrants from China and France, and I grew up with a lot of those ‘where are you from’ questions…those questions [Eric Liu] brought up about ‘why not’ and ‘what if’ are the questions I grew up with all the time.” She further continued by sharing her experience of “being that voice in the room, often the youngest, asking those questions, and being determined to keep asking those questions to try and push that narrative and make a positive impact of change.” The sincere explanation of her identity stirred the hearts of many in the audience–and it was only a premonition of the stimulating topics to come.
When asked what importance civic engagement has in Bellevue School District, Ms. Jennifer Wang replied, “We need to contribute to making this [success] happen. We want to engage the community, to be connected…we would not be able to do this job without the board members, the chair members, and the generosity of the parents.” Her heartfelt answer echoed the thoughts of all civic members present.
Within the hour, the panel covered the following topics: importance civic engagement has in Bellevue School District, positive impacts, student roles, the need for of equity, barriers of working in civic engagement and how to address them, relevance and importance of civic engagement in developing a student’s leadership skills, and subcategories of student leadership.
Participating in civic engagement develops strong leadership in students because they take an active role in sustaining their communities. Empathizing with and analyzing issues builds the ability to craft reliable solutions. This helps students in school projects, careers, and beyond. The Pathway Foundation has its doors open for everyone. We hope the panel inspired, entertained, and convinced you to take action in the community–whether that be through joining us or practicing service in another way.
Next, the Mayoral Internship project leaders held a panel with advisor Sam Lai to discuss how they benefited from the Pathway Mayoral Internship. Most interns talked about gaining confidence in public speaking and how they became better at time management. Erik Ma, who leads the Digital Platform Project, mentioned how he learned a lot about website designing, web programming, and database. Melissa Lin then mentioned how the Mayoral Internship is a very unique opportunity, and she “gained lots of different writing skills” since she is the leader of the Blog and Media Team.
Sam Lai pointed out how the Mayoral Internship there to ” guide interns on their paths and make them successful.” Edwin Ong talked about how civic engagement would help him a lot help him tremendously at Stanford, where he will major in political science. In contrast, Kristin Yao, who intends to study in the medical field, talked about how being a leader and always helping out community is important regardless of your field. Erik and Melissa are not so certain about where they want to go. However, they both agreed on how the skills they learned from this internship are very fundamental and will help them no matter where they are going.
All in all, people came away from the conference will new conclusions about equity and the role of everyone in civics. Many also showed interest in joining the Mayoral Internship. An attendee named Xuguang Yang was so touched by the message that he posted on our website saying “[The Mayoral Internship] is a great program. My daughter and I went [to] today’s conference. My daughter really likes what she sa[w] and heard today. We definitely have to support it. My daughter is going to join the club.” Another conference participant, Youyi Fong, commented that “I just attended [the] 2019 annual conference. Really impressed. My kids are 8 and 10. When they get to the age, I will encourage them to join the internship program.”
A recording of the Pathway Foundation Annual Conference 2019: Road to College and Beyond can be found here.
Written by Melissa Lin, Gloria Shen, Neha Dubhashi and Shaoqi Wang