Bringing Together a New Generation of Advocates and Young Leaders Virtually

Advancing Justice – AAJC
13 min readAug 28, 2020

Introducing our virtual 2020 Youth Leadership Summit cohort of young leaders from across the country

By John C. Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

In September, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC is convening our first VIRTUAL Youth Leadership Summit, convening 12 young leaders online from across the country for our 7th annual Youth Leadership Summit. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of our young leaders is our priority, and we look forward to hosting our annual convening in this new virtual format during these unprecedented times. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there is an urgent need to organize around providing relief for immigrants and refugees, combatting COVID-19-related racism and hate, protecting our voting rights in the upcoming elections, and ensuring a full and accurate count of our communities in the 2020 Census.

Since 2014, Advancing Justice | AAJC has convened college students for its signature youth program, a multi-day leadership development program for young advocates that is focused on advocacy, communications, and civic engagement around policy issues impacting our communities. Through this annual convening, we provide a unique opportunity for young advocates from across the country to learn from and network with policy advocates and national leaders. In addition, students are able to build and strengthen their own networks of student leaders across the country. Through interactive workshops, hands-on trainings, and discussions with leaders on Capitol Hill, participants build advocacy and communications skills and gain a deeper understanding of how they can impact policy decisions.

Over the years, we have had the privilege of convening exemplary young advocates from a myriad of diverse communities and spanning all regions across the country. This year’s Summit will take place September 14–18 across five virtual sessions online. We’re pleased to announce the 12 finalists who will be joining us virtually in September.

*Advancing Justice | AAJC uses AAPI when referring to our collective Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The following terminology is also used by our students below: Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) and AANHPI (Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander).

Amber Nguyen, Georgetown University

Amber Nguyen is a junior studying English, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Performing Arts at Georgetown University. A daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Amber grew up in Houston, Texas before attending high school in New Jersey. While immersed in a diverse, well-rounded liberal arts education, Amber became interested in immigration policy, racial justice, women’s movements, and civic engagement. Since then, Amber has nurtured her interests through her coursework. Despite the absence of an Asian American Studies program at Georgetown, Amber continues to explore an academic, social, and political understanding of what it means to be Asian American both inside and outside the classroom. For example, she currently serves as the Internal Vice President of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA). Amber also worked as a policy intern with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC during the Spring 2020 semester. This summer, Amber served as a programs intern with OCA — Asian Pacific American Advocates, where she helped organize OCA’s AAPI Womxn’s Conference; facilitated workshops on power and privilege; and lobbied on the Hill. In her free time, Amber can be found dancing, baking, editing zine submissions, and playing with her dog.

Amy Ho, University of California, Los Angeles

Amy Ho is a rising fourth-year at the University of California, Los Angeles pursuing a major in Political Science and a double minor in Public Affairs and Global Studies. Amy identifies as a 1.5 generation Vietnamese American and a first-generation college student. She is dedicated to serving the Southeast Asian community through advocating for equity in education, healthcare, and immigrant rights. This year, she serves as the Internal Assistant Director for the Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA, the official voice of APIDA students on campus, and as the External Associate Director for the 2nd Annual Southeast Asian Students for Organizing Conference, which aims to form an extensive, nationwide network of Southeast Asian student organizers. Off-campus, Amy has promoted equal access to justice through her work with JusticeCorps at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse and through her time volunteering with an immigration attorney. She has also interned at her local Congressmember’s office through the Center for Asian Americans United for Self-Empowerment, which provided a unique glimpse into the power dynamics of the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Her experiences as a community organizer have inspired her to pursue a future career in public interest law.

Ananya Kalahasti, Johns Hopkins University

Ananya Kalahasti is a senior at Johns Hopkins University studying International Studies & Public Health. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Ananya was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, attending predominantly white schools throughout her upbringing. However, she found her niche in the AAPI community at Hopkins, where she grew into her Asian American identity and began engaging in advocacy spaces. Ananya recently served as the President of South Asian Students at Hopkins, organizing the push for a South Asian Studies program at Hopkins. She also serves as one of the leaders of Disaggregate Hopkins, a student-led initiative seeking to highlight the demographic makeup of the student body. She’s had the privilege of interning in the AAPI political space over the past 2 summers, and currently works with a cohort of South Asian organizers building community power against unlawful immigration raids in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. Her passion lies at the intersection of public health, migration, and the law, and hopes to attend law school one day to advocate for better immigrant health access. In her free time, she can usually be found cooking, baking, or watching Bollywood movies, and she is excited to work with other community leaders at this year’s Summit.

Anton Gallegos, Middlebury College

Anton Gallegos is a rising senior studying sociology at Middlebury College. Raised in Chicago, he is a first-generation college student of two immigrant parents from Mexico and the Philippines. Although from Chicago, Anton struggled with his mixed identity, always feeling left out of a community. Arriving at Middlebury, Anton envisioned a fresh start, and rather than classes, looked forward to attending the first meeting of Asian Students in Action (ASIA), where he found himself able to discuss topics from Asian culture to media representation. Later, taking sociology and American studies classes that unpacked constructions of Asian identity from diverse authors, finding validation through open mics, and unpacking Asian American Ethnic literature over lunch with friends, he felt equally represented, heard, and empowered. He eventually became the President of ASIA and one of the lead organizers for an AAPI activism group called Radical Asians. However, within these roles, he saw himself running into the same issues as those in the past. Frustrated with the lack of institutional memory alongside the narratives of AAPI experiences and history, Anton strives to play an active role in diversifying the AAPI narrative through writing, creative outlets, and community organizing while sharing all the resources he encounters.

Anu Sangraula, University of Maryland, College Park

Anu Sangraula, a proud Nepali American, is a junior studying public health science at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her experiences with the health care system and her volunteer work at a free clinic that serves an immigrant South Asian population fuel her desire to achieve health equity. She volunteers with Adhikaar, a Nepali social justice organization, in which she phonebanks for projects and rallies around Temporary Protection Status and immigration. Anu is also interested in psychology and works as a Research Assistant and Peer Mentor in a lab that studies stress. As a Peer Mentor, she loves to support first-year students and helps them design and administer their research projects. Recently, she became involved in a study exploring COVID-19 misinformation on Twitter and is fascinated by digital misinformation. Anu is also the President of Public Health Action Through Civic Engagement, which is a non-partisan student organization that focuses on the intersection of public health and politics while educating students on how they can be civically engaged. In her free time, you can find Anu watching stand-up or TV shows, practicing dance, or reading one of the too many library books she always has checked out.

Charlie Nguyen, Johns Hopkins University

Charlie Nguyen is a senior studying public health and economics at Johns Hopkins University. Hailing from Garden Grove, California, he has had the unique opportunity to work with immigrant communities in both Little Saigon and Baltimore. At JHU, his interest in addressing the impact of institutional oppression on Southeast Asian communities has translated to his efforts with the Vietnamese Student Association and in calling for the disaggregation of race and ethnicity categories in university data collection. Drawing from his experience with Baltimore community organizations and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, his position as a peer mentor at the JHU Center for Social Concern is centered around empowering students to critically reflect on their roles in the surrounding community. Serving on the Civic Engagement Committee at the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations, Charlie is also a staff member for the 2020 Project, a campaign aiming to promote voter engagement among young AAPIs. Next year, he plans to begin his epidemiology training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he hopes to develop the tools to advocate for the well-being of Southeast Asian and refugee communities.

Joselle Escobar, University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign

Joselle Escobar currently attends the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign studying Political Science and Criminology. During her time at UIUC, she has served in the Philippine Student Association as Co-Cultural chair directing Filipino dance performances, Vice President- External, and currently serves as Co-Coordinator of the 2020 Filipino Americans Coming Together Conference in the Midwest. She is passionate about growing collegiate Fil-Am organizations and Asian-American cultural programming across universities in the Midwest. Along with her interest in the Fil-Am community, she wants to be involved with developing equitable public policies for marginalized communities in Illinois. Her professional experience includes working in several nonprofits such as Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the New American Welcome Center at the University YMCA, and Unipro Chicago-Midwest. Joselle currently serves as a Legislative Aide intern at State Representative Carol Ammons office serving the 103rd district of Illinois assisting with constituent services and policy research. As an upcoming senior, Joselle is looking forward to directing her first large-scale conference and inspiring young delegates within the Filipino/Asian American community to take action in solidarity with other minority communities. In the future, Joselle plans to attend law school concentrating on public interest issues in Chicago.

Kenna Tanouye, Linfield University

Kenna Tanouye is a proud biracial junior at Linfield University and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Sport Management with a minor in Economics. From the island of O’ahu to the Pacific Northwest, Kenna is changing the world at just 20 years old. She is a strong advocate for Black Indigenous People of Color representation, the importance of education-based action in all aspects of our society, and the intersectionality and power of sports as a unifier to bridge communal gaps. Outside of her normal class schedule, she is a part of the Programs Committee at The Homegirl Project and is the Arts Network Director at MixedLife Media. This summer, she interned at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association as a marketing and research intern, focusing mainly on transgender athletes and its Title IX implications on high school athletics and mental health resources for high school student athletes during this COVID-19 pandemic. Blessed with the opportunity to be amongst such wonderful company for Advancing Justice | AAJC’s Youth Leadership Summit, Kenna is excited to participate in advocacy trainings and apply her learning to situations that impact AANHPI communities. On the off chance she isn’t busy, you can probably find her walking around campus and listening to some podcasts.

Rosaleen Xiong, University of Texas at Austin

Rosaleen Xiong is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing a degree in Computer Science and a certificate in Digital Arts and Media. She is originally from State College, Pennsylvania, but she moved to Texas after high school to serve as an AmeriCorps member with City Year San Antonio, an education nonprofit. On campus, she co-founded Q++, an organization that empowers LGBTQIA+ students in tech by supporting them socially, professionally, and academically. She also serves as the Director of Operations for the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective, her school’s social justice organization for APIDA students. Her interest in applying her technical skills to her passion for service led her to apply for the President’s Award for Global Learning, a grant that funds student-initiated research and social impact projects. Last fall, her team was selected to implement their project, developing a mobile application and website to help Indian healthcare providers equitably serve LGBTQIA+ patients. She is also a Bluebonnet Data Fellow, volunteering her data science skills for Sri Preston Kulkarni’s congressional campaign. After college, she hopes to work in policy research or the nonprofit sector using her knowledge of data science and programming.

Sai Parsawar, University of Utah

Sai Parsawar is a third-year student studying Psychology and Health, Society & Policy at the University of Utah. She is the proud daughter of South Indian immigrants and was raised in Salt Lake City, UT. Growing up in a predominately white city, her racial and ethnic identity were instrumental in how she navigated everyday experiences. Through her community engagement internship with Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, she learned how to center community needs and use that as a framework to create racially equitable community organizing. Sai is also is a Fall 2020 site leader for the immigration experience in the alternative breaks program at the UofU in which participants will work with various community partners in the Salt Lake Valley and learn about the intricacies of immigration on a local and national scale. Ultimately, her various experiences in college motivated her passion of decolonizing both herself and her community and understanding how to best leverage the privileges she has been granted. Sai is thrilled to be a part of the Youth Leadership Summit and to learn more about the social and political nuances of AAPI communities.

Shania Khoo, Duke University

Shania Khoo is a student at Duke University pursuing a major in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. Grounding herself in her identity as a 1.5 generation Malaysian immigrant, she is passionate about creating and being in learning and growing spaces that allow Asians and Asian Americans to better understand and commit to anti-racism, anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, and interrelations of power structures. At Duke, she is the Vice President for the Asian Students Association and does political education work for Asian American Alliance, an anti-capitalist organization for radical Asians. She is deeply involved in the fight for Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies through the Asian American Studies Working Group, and in 2019, she helped launch the first issue of Margins, a publication inviting Asian/Americans to engage in more nuanced conversations about radical identity politics. Beyond Duke, she is Outreach Coordinator of the East Coast Asian American Student Union. She is involved in community organizing in Durham, the city that Duke overwhelmingly gentrifies, through Community Empowerment Fund, Migrant Roots Media, and Durham Beyond Policing. When she doesn’t want to think about the state of the world, you can find her playing Animal Crossing, drawing cute stickers, and crocheting her own clothes.

Sharon Yuen, University of California, Los Angeles

Sharon Yuen is a second and fourth-generation Chinese American woman and first-generation college student graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in Asian American Studies and a minor in Global Health. She aspires to enter the medical field as well as work in public health policy in order to enact reform for marginalized and underrepresented communities. She is committed to uplifting and advocating for the needs of students of color through a variety of involvements at UCLA. As the outgoing Director of the Asian Pacific Coalition, she worked to develop relationships between the diverse APIDA student organizations as well as cross-ethnic coalition building. She has pushed for raising awareness on APIDA issues through a variety of events, including the COVID-19 Anti-Asian ARTIVISM campaign and the co-sponsoring of the 1st Annual Southeast Asian Student Organizing conference. Sharon has also worked as a Client Navigator for Asian Pacific American Health CARE for the past three years, where she assists in providing free healthcare screenings for immigrant APIDA communities across Los Angeles. Currently, she is an intern with the Thai Community Development Center, where she is part of a team collaboratively working on the creation and execution of the national Thai COVID-19 Needs Assessment survey. At this year’s Youth Leadership Summit, Sharon is looking forward to learning more about public policy and further developing her advocacy and organizing skills.

The Youth Leadership Summit is made possible through the generous support of State Farm.



Advancing Justice – AAJC

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AsianAmericans to participate in our democracy.