CAPAY is run by and for APA youth. A Steering Committee directs the organization with the help of the YouthLearn Members, High School Youth Organizers, and the General Members. Hundreds of General Members, Student Volunteers, and APA youth participate in CAPAY's initiatives. The CAPAY Coordinator and Adult Advisors provide support and guidance for the Steering Committee and APA youth.
The Need for CAPAY
APA young people face many complex challenges and deserve a voice in the issues that concern them. Through CAPAY, APA youth can find that voice and learn the skills needed to become leaders. CAPAY believes that youth united can make a difference.
In the Beginning...
In November 1992, two weeks before the Thanksgiving Holiday, Vira Douangmany, a Laotian American student who was then a senior, organized a student walkout to protest harassment against Asians and to call for greater vigilance against racism at her high school. The walkout was met with disbelief and fierce opposition by the school administration who threatened to suspend any Asian student and summon their parents for a disciplinary hearing if they participated in the walkout. The walkout was cancelled, but in its wake, Vira and other students formed a multiethnic coalition and met with the school administration. Receiving support from community organizations such as the Asian American Resource Workshop and the Massachusetts Asian Educators Association, they demanded cultural sensitivity workshops for students and school personnel. Again, they were met with strong resistance by school authorities.
Witnessing how APA youth like Vira Douangmany and her classmates were constantly being harassed and disempowered, Peter Kiang, a longtime community activist and professor of Education and Asian American Studies at UMass Boston held a conference in January 1993--Civil Rights Issues Facing Asian Americans in the 1990's-- on youth issues. Many powerful testimonies retelling struggles with harassment in schools and desires for APA youth empowerment from a Chinese American school board member, a Japanese American staff member of the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, Vira, Sarouem Phoung (a Cambodian youth worker), and Katy Kwong(a Chinese bilingual teacher) were presented. Their stories were so moving that an ad-hoc group of conference participants, including the director of the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, resolved to provide individual and group support for a follow-up youth forum on civil rights. With this backing from the community, a core group of APA high school and college students (including Vira) decided to organize an intensive period of training, including summer internships.With the assistance of an advisory adult task force, the core group planned this historic gathering.
The first Conference for Asian Pacific American Youth (CAPAY) took place on December 13th and was a huge success. Conference planners had originally envisioned a turn-out of 300; however, more than 600 youths from over 50 schools attended. The conference celebrated the diversity among the APA youth, and addressed issues on race relations, intergenerational conflicts, interracial dating, "gangs", curriculum and classroom dynamics in schools, etc. The core youth group received very positive feedback on the conference:
It was great! . . . Let's do it again! . . . Wow, I didn't know there were so many different Asian groups! . . . I am glad that I was able to meet other Asians . . . We shouldn't stop with the conference.
The overwhelmingly large turnout and enthusiastic feedback clearly indicated a need for further activities and an ongoing network. After the conference, the core group organized follow-up meetings with conference participants and began the formation of an APA youth network. During the monthly meetings between January to May 1994, democratic principles were practice and decisions were made by consensus. With their own motivation, energy, and vision, the youth established a name, a mission statement, and a governing structure for this first ever, state-wide APA youth network.
The mission statement for the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth (CAPAY) reads:
"We believe that youth united by a common purpose can make a difference. We aim to establish and maintain a forum for free dialogue and for positive change in our communities. Our initiatives are diverse and include avenues to abolish stereotypes, to educate ourselves and others about Asian Pacific Americans, to celebrate our heritage, and improve race relations. Our hope is for all to be able to contribute to society. "
- Drafted by Ivan Chan
--Ratified by CAPAY, May 14,1994.
CAPAY, from 1993-the Present
The Steering Committee Members are broken into four separate committees -- Communications, Public Relations, Programs & Projects, and Symposium. Each subcommittee is responsible for running a specific aspect of CAPAY's operations.
Beginning with the planning of the first APA youth conference, the youth have valued the support and guidance provided by the adult task force. When CAPAY was established in May 1994, the youth also welcomed the continued commitment of the CAPAY Adult Task Force (also known as the Advisory Council), and the sponsorship of the UMass Boston Institute for Asian American Studies (IAAS). To honor the fact that CAPAY is a youth-led organization for youth empowerment, the role of the IAAS and the Advisory Council members provide resources and guidance to the youth but have no voting or decision-making power. When the Advisory Council meets, there are Steering Committee representatives and youth interns who participate in the meetings. The youth are not shy about making their views known.
Recognizing that much of the organizational development and program coordination needs to take place outside of the Steering Committee and requires staff assistance, Vivian Lee was hired as the Coordinator in late September 1994. With the collective efforts of the Steering Committee, the Advisory Council, the staff and the interns, CAPAY members have continued to participate in discussions around identity issues and race relations, enjoyed various leadership training opportunities, published their own newsletter, presented at conferences and public events, worked on key issues faced by the APA communities, and taken part in the at-large, "mainstream" youth events. Our current CAPAY Coordinator is Sophia Kim, who has been with CAPAY for the last three years.
Although attention to these organizational issues is crucial for the long-term growth and institutionalization of CAPAY as a model network for APA youth, the essence of CAPAY is summarized by one of its first Steering Committee members:
CAPAY gives my life meaning. You go to school. You do homework. You go to school again. What about the real issues, the real causes, and making a difference? CAPAY is the cause to me. It makes me feel good.
The Programs and Initiatives
CAPAY aims to improve race relations, support youth-led activism in schools and communities, and provide leadership training to APA youth. Ongoing projects focus on issues such as APA civil rights, history, culture, community organizing, and immigration concerns.
Youth Leadership Development focuses on developing critical leadership skills for young people to become activists in their high schools and communities.
Coalition Building provides resources and support for APA youth in high schools, focusing on the educational, social, and cultural development of APA youth.
As.I.Am. Newsletter is a quarterly newsletter written, compiled, and organized by CAPAY youth. It creates a forum for vital issues impacting APA youth such as cultural identity and civil rights.
Summer Leadership Program includes an Annual Strategic Planning Retreat, and engages newly elected Steering Committee and general members in training on CAPAY's programs.
Annual Leadership Symposium is the kick off event for the statewide Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Education Project (APAHMEP). The symposium provides resources and technical assistance to Massachusetts high schools students to educate others on APA history, heritage, immigrant experiences, and APA contributions to America.
Community YouthLearn Program engages APA high school youth in community-based activities, and projects planning that empowers them and their communities.
Asian American Studies Workshop is a series of workshops on Asian American history that offer APA youth the opportunity to learn about their own history and issues that are relevant to them, which they may not learn in their own schools.
CAPAY Alumni Network allows former CAPAY members the opportunity to mentor younger members. The network also supports their work environment to promote awareness and positive change.
provide support and guidance for the Steering Committee and APA youth.