By Doo Yong Shim | New Organizing Project blogger
During my summer internship at the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, I have had the chance to work with the Korean American community in many different areas. For 12 weeks, as a communications intern, I was expected to do not only the communications work, but to also support the various other work that NAKASEC is directly involved in.
Initially as a communications intern, I contacted media members, updated and maintained media databases, drafted press materials, participated and took notes from media briefings (like for the June 15th Deferred Action announcement), and provided general office support. But aside from all of this, on July 26th, I finally came to realize that besides all of these important duties and responsibilities, I had to make “building youth power” a top priority.
Until the youth from Chicago, IL and Los Angeles, CA walked into the NAKASEC office for Social Justice Camp and Maryland Dream Summer a few weeks ago, I did not strongly believe in youth power. Not because I thought youth were young and powerless, but simply because I thought their main roles in society were to do school work and leave the political and social justice work for adults. I thought that in the mean time, the youth had to focus on schoolwork to become successful and an impactful individuals instead.
However, during Maryland Dream Summer, the youth’s ambitions and firm determination for change enlightened me to the importance of youth and why youth participation in immigrant rights and social justice work is necessary.
I realized that for many youth in this country, social change is their concern, too. From gender to race, poverty to immigration issues, everybody wants to make changes and impact their lives. The youth who participated in Social Justice Camp and Maryland Dream Summer came with passion for immigration rights. During the 10 days of the program, they were eager to make changes by reaching out to community. Some small incidents may have left their feelings hurt, but they did not stop. All willing to improve the quality of immigrants’ rights, the youth went out to have conversations with and educate community members. Unlike my previous thoughts, youth were not just passively existing individuals.
Youth involvement also seemed to develop their leadership and organizational skills because of brainstorming and teamwork activities. Through the activities they engaged in, the youth benefited from exchanging their ideas with each other, and as a result, they become strategic leaders who are now more familiar and confident about their goals.
I’ve learned that while youth may be inexperienced in some areas, they bring tremendous knowledge in other areas and are continuously growing. Therefore, I strongly urge the support for youth education and participation in social change. Eventually, it is the young people’s energy that makes effective impacts. While it is important to protect them, it is also necessary to expose them to the real-world issues, help them realize why they matter and encourage their participation in social justice.