I remember the excitement of going back to school after the long, hot summers in Texas where I grew up. Preparing for the first day back to school meant getting the book bag ready with new school supplies, selecting an outfit and thinking about all the familiar and new faces I would be seeing. That was a generation ago. Although the students going back to school now prepare in a similar way, they (and their parents and guardians) have a whole host of other things on their minds – school safety, being selected in special programs, college readiness and how to prepare for the workforce needs of the future.
In mid-August, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders visited Florida and Georgia to engage with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) technical leaders. We started off by visiting the HSU Educational Foundation to learn about how its staff have engaged with youths, teachers and educators about STEM in Okaloosa County, in northwest Florida. It was particularly interesting to see how the foundation has been able to weave culture and soft skills into STEM activities. The foundation hosted a community convening on STEM Education and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), which included Okaloosa County commissioners, AAPI students and parents, school administrators, representatives from the Okaloosa School District, the Okaloosa Economic Development Council and chambers of commerce, Eglin Air Force Base officials, and industry leaders – all focused on STEM career readiness. Several participants described their models of collaborative, public-private partnerships that aim to engage young students in the STEM concepts and skills that will be necessary to compete for high-demand technology jobs in the future. An eight-year-old student demonstrated her coding skills in operating a drone remotely from software code that she wrote on her computer. Executive Director Holly Ham shared the Initiative’s work on STEM, its engagement with the State-Federal STEM Summit and the development of the 2018 Five-Year STEM Strategic Plan. It was a vibrant gathering of a small, strong community that is closely knit by its vision and desire to work collaboratively for the continued development and improvement of Okaloosa’s economic and workforce future.
A parent and military spouse shares her background and science education during a STEM community convening in Okaloosa County.
Domee Shi, creator of the Pixar Animation Studios short “Bao,” shares a lively moment during the Going for Gold panel.
After weeks of hard work, hours of meetings, and too many packets of instant coffee, we pulled it off – hosting the 2018 AAPI Youth Summit! Held yesterday at Google’s D.C. headquarters, this year’s gathering built on a tradition of connecting with young Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders.
Each year, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) invites AAPI students and interns to an event aimed to educate, connect, and inspire the next generation of AAPI leaders. This year’s theme, “Going for Gold,” highlighted trailblazer AAPIs across different industries and throughout the federal government.
Executive Director Holly Ham with the Asian Corporate & Entrepreneur Leaders board of directors and executive team at the Asian Corporate & Entrepreneur Leaders’ Awards Gala
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders team recently headed to Arizona to engage with the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community on the topics of workforce leadership, business and jobs, and senior healthcare. I joined Executive Director Holly Ham and Senior Advisor Debra Suarez as we met with community leaders, were inspired by their stories, and humbled by their experiences.
On Saturday evening, July 14, Holly joined over 200 participants at the Asian Corporate & Entrepreneur Leaders’ Leadership Awards Gala in Scottsdale to deliver the keynote address. She highlighted her experiences as a young immigrant to America, her leadership roles in private enterprise and the federal government, and what service means to Americans. The following day, we visited the Greater Phoenix Chinese Christian Church, where a welcoming, compassionate congregation greeted us before the morning service. Infants, teenagers, adults, and seniors joined together in a heartwarming display of community and culture.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), we come from diverse backgrounds. We trace our ancestry to dozens of countries, each with their own unique cultures and languages. As AAPIs in the United States, our diversity has no equal in the world, and as the fastest growing population in the United States, we are integrated in all aspects of American life. As an economic driver, there are more than 1.9 million AAPI-owned businesses that generate over $700 billion annually and create 3.6 million jobs in the United States, according to the Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
With our unique cultures and differences, we also have diverse needs in education, health, immigration, housing, employment, and other issues that require culturally and linguistically appropriate services from the federal government.
You don’t always need to have a penthouse office or a flashy car to call the shots and make a difference. At the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative), we know it really is the interns who run our world (our office). Having a high-caliber intern class in the office has a significantly positive impact on our work. Interns here are responsible for assisting the staff in researching a wide range of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues, including education, health, sustainable neighborhoods, economic development, civil rights, and labor and employment. In addition, interns help write policy memos and proposals, coordinate events, develop social media and blog posts, and conduct outreach to national and local AAPI organizations, elected officials, and ethnic media outlets.
On the morning of May 19, I visited the India House in Houston, Texas, a nonprofit organization with a mission to unite cultures, create bridges and serve the community by bringing resources, education, services and Indian culture to Houstonians. Retired Colonel Vipin Kumar, India House’s executive director, along with trustees and members of the executive committee, provided a tour of the facilities. India House provides a range of free or low-cost services to the community, including health care, legal assistance, a camp for urban youth, Hindi language classes, arts and dance courses, and technology for seniors. It was a Saturday morning and India House was buzzing with youth attending a leadership workshop, a yoga class and a community event in various parts of the sprawling facility.
Holly Ham with Trustees and Executive Committee members of India House along with Ed and Beverly Gor
The Asian Pacific American Heritage Association (APAHA) Board of Directors presented the President George H.W. Bush award for outstanding achievement to Holly Ham on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at its 26th Anniversary Gala in Houston, Texas. Ms. Ham was recognized for her outstanding accomplishments in her career and commitment to the Asian Pacific American community.
Other award recipients included American First National Bank for the Corporate Achievement Award and Dr. Feng Jianwei for the Community Service Award.
Washington, D.C. – Today the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative) announced the new membership of its Interagency Working Group (IWG) and held its inaugural meeting at the White House.
“In accordance with the Executive Order, the Interagency Working Group is key to our mission of improving the quality of life for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) through increased access to and participation in federal programs. Without the collaboration of the federal agencies and executive offices, we would not be able to reach into AAPI communities across the country and territories. Having the senior representation of the IWG here today is a big step for the federal government to continue serving this community,” said Initiative Executive Director Holly Ham.
The IWG is comprised of senior membership from 31 federal agencies and offices. The purpose of today’s meeting was to guide the participating federal agencies and offices in developing their agencies’ plans to measure performance on existing goals and to improve upon and create new measurable objectives.
The meeting began with welcoming remarks from Bill McGinley, White House Cabinet Secretary. An overview of the AAPI communities in the United States and its territories was presented by Akil Vohra, Director of Strategic Initiatives. Executive Director Ham shared the strategic areas of focus for the Initiative. The meeting concluded with the IWG members receiving instructions with next steps on how to best craft their agency plans which are due later this fall.
A community member asks a question during the round-table discussion.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative) hosted a Community Leaders Forum at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on May 17 to commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The gathering at ED headquarters in Washington, D.C. provided an opportunity for community leaders from across the nation to engage with senior-level federal officials to discuss issues impacting the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Over 175 leaders in fields ranging from businesses to nonprofit service organizations attended.