READY, SET, ACTION: a reflection on a/pia high school conference 2018

Ready, Set, Action.

That was the theme for this year’s Asian/Pacific Islander American High School Conference (A/PIA HSC). This year’s HSC embodied Ready, Set, Action before it even became our theme, when it was just my co-chair, Tiffany, and me FaceTiming over the summer. We already had a billboard-sized vision of what we wanted the
conference to look like—now we just needed a team to help us execute it. Little did I know how wonderful and brilliant our board would be.

I knew that Tiff and I had crafted a successful team because we chose people who believe young people have the power to change the world. Our team has spoken to over one hundred people to make this conference happen. High schools, community centers, restaurants, state senators, professors, students. A lot of students. Despite all of the time spent on the phone or in Google Drive (Google Sheets was my personal favorite), I think everyone left the conference feeling somewhat awestruck. For me, the conference wasn’t real until 8 AM on November 10, when Ready, Set, Action was displayed on almost every single body in Angell Auditorium C.

This is one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had at the University of Michigan. It was a culmination of everything I’ve learned from being a member of the A/PIA community. We made progress with this conference. We talked about colorism, identity, our untaught history. How to be an activist in your own way, whether that’s through slam poetry or public service work. Wherever the high schoolers were in their journey, my hope was that they took something back with them. Like realize they’re having a lunch box moment and being able to name it as so. Or educate someone about the history behind the Model Minority Myth. Or feel a sense of pride when they check Asian off in the Race/Ethnicity box.

Despite our progress, I know there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. We need to work toward making the Pacific Islander part of A/PIA more visible. We need to talk about class differences. We need to contact more rural schools so that A/PIA students don’t feel like they’re alone. That being said, I’m hopeful because our executive board is young and each generation brings new voices, even better and louder than the last. My one aspiration for A/PIA High School Conference is for it to always continue growing. I have no doubt that it will ever cease.

By: Tiffany Huynh