NAKASEC VA School of Change Recap (Summer 2018)

School of Change
Alvin Kim, Senior at Annandale High School stated “ I was given an opportunity to grow and develop social skills but also learn about local issues which harm our community”

School of Change 2018 – NAKASEC VA’s 5-week summer youth program – has come to a close. The goal was to equip Asian American high school youth who live in Northern Virginia with the tools and social justice perspectives needed to be active community leaders.

Angie Sohn, Senior at Thomas Jefferson High School said “School of Change was a valuable opportunity for me to reflect on my Asian American identity, learn more about the issues impacting my community, and equip myself with the skills needed to take action.”

Week 1:
We spent the first week in the natural beauty of Luray, VA, 90 miles away from Northern Virginia. We spent four days and three nights exploring Asian American identity and creating a stronger bond with each other. The workshops challenged the opinions on stereotypes and the impact these stereotypes can have on what it means to be “American” and “Asian American.” Our discussions revealed questions that we had about our own assumptions and experiences with the Asian American identity. We reflected on how stereotypes could end up being dangerous because a single stereotype, good or bad, should not define a group of people. Every night, we ended with intimate open discussions. The safe space allowed us build trust and share our thoughts while respectfully questioning each other’s ideas. One memorable conversation we had centered around school resource officers (SROs) in the Fairfax County Public Schools. We shared our own personal experiences with the SROs in our schools and reflected on the role an SRO should assume.

Weeks 2 – 4:
School of Change weeks two to four began with a bang–learning about the Fairfax for All Ordinance and different aspects of community organizing! This county-level policy, if passed, would limit the collaboration between Fairfax County agencies and ICE. We met up three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 am – 2 pm. In the span of three weeks, we created scripts for canvassing, received voter registration training, and actively practiced potential encounters through role playing. After the trainings, the youth targeted hot spots register voters and to collect petitions to support the ordinance. The work we did was empowering because we communicated with the people in our communities and found ways to build allyship and stir up involvement from the people! Although there were a few bumps in the road, we made adjustments to our scripts and found other methods of effectively communicating with those in our neighborhoods. For example, we’ve noticed that many folks questioned the necessity of writing their home address on the Fairfax for All Ordinance petitions. We made sure to include lines into our script that encouraged people to provide their street name and city at the very least.

Week 5:
These four weeks set the foundation for week five. The youth set up a meeting with Fairfax County Board of Supervisor Penelope Gross to garner her support for the Fairfax for All Ordinance. In order to prepare for this meeting, the youth took part in a spokesperson training with Ricardo Ramirez with Advancement Project where they could improve their communication skills. It was a productive and memorable day filled with laughter and meaningful interactions that pushed the youth outside of their comfort zones. On the final day, the youth met with Supervisor Gross to learn more about her position regarding the Fairfax for All Ordinance and to have her support the ordinance. The meeting lasted a whopping hour and a half. All in all, it was a productive meeting that challenged us to create more noise around immigrant rights within our communities. As we learn more about the importance of grassroots organizing, we also learn more about ourselves and how we can create change by involving community members throughout this whole process.

Thank you to everyone who made the School of Change 2018 a success!
Dohee Lee and Sumi Yi, NAKASEC VA volunteers
Samir Meghelli, Chief Curator, Smithsonian Institution, Anacostia Community Museum
Sojin Kim, Curator, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Ricardo Ramirez, Deputy Director of Communications, Advancement Project