Skip to content

Asian American youth raise their voices for positive change

Learning

American Girl’s 2022 Girl of the Year, Corinne Tan, is a true trailblazer who is proud of her Chinese heritage. While Corinne’s story is filled with outdoor adventure and fun, the central theme is about the power of love—among family members (including loyal pets!), friends, and communities. Love gives her the courage to challenge negative stereotypes and speak up for positive change.

WIRES logo

To celebrate young voices, we’re proud to partner with AAPI Youth Rising, a student-led organization with a mission to turn small actions into positive change. (AAPI stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.) We talked with Mina Fedor, 13-year-old founder of AAPI Youth Rising, about how the group is bringing awareness to the increase in xenophobia against Asians in America and how we can all help create a world where everyone is treated fairly and with respect. You and your girl can read the interview together below.

What prompted you to form AAPI Youth Rising? What is the organization’s mission?

The mission of AAPI Youth Rising is to take small actions to make positive change in our communities. AAPI Youth Rising started from a little idea.

I first spoke about the rise in xenophobia against the AAPI community at my school assembly at the very beginning of the pandemic when no one was talking about this issue. Over the next year, I heard about kids walking to school with sticks to protect themselves, comments about Kung Flu and Bat soup, and even worse, about AAPI elderly who feared leaving their homes due to the increase in violent attacks against AAPI nationwide.

After nearly a year of witnessing the increase in anti-Asian sentiment and violence, I decided to take more action. At first, I had the idea to hang a sign in support of my community over one of the busiest intersections in California. But I soon realized I wasn’t the only one who had something to say. So I invited other youth, council members, and organizations to join me in speaking out. This idea eventually evolved into the AAPI Youth Rising rally.

On March 28, 2021, community members representing the diversity of the Bay Area came together in solidarity with my group, AAPI Youth Rising. Originally, I had hoped for 70 attendees. To my surprise, over 1,200 rally-goers filled the Berkeley Marina. We heard from over fifteen brave youth as we raised our voices. Even a first-grader spoke up! We then marched to the SF Bay Pedestrian Footbridge and hung our signs on the overpass while we heard motorists honk in support. Our rally sign said “♡ Our Asian Community”. It was an inspirational day for all of us. At that moment, we realized that even as youth we could make a difference.

 

We have all heard about the alarming rise in xenophobia against Asians in this country. How is your organization creating awareness and support for the Asian and Pacific Islander communities?

There are many ways that youth can take action to make positive change! We believe that education is the key to combating the rise in xenophobia against Asians in America.

Many of us have spoken out at rallies and events for the very first time. National groups have helped us introduce diverse books into our libraries and share anti-bullying resources with our peers. We have joined coalitions advocating for change within our educational systems. We have registered voters at rallies, phone banked for issues important to us, and written letters to legislators. We have asked our teachers and schools to incorporate AAPI lessons into our curriculum.

Recently, we organized a student art showcase that took place in Oakland, CA, about the importance of learning about our diverse histories in schools. Through these small actions, we challenge the model minority myth and elevate our stories as ones to celebrate.

American Girl is proud to support the group’s ONE/180 pledge to have at least one day of the school year dedicated to teaching Asian American and Pacific Islander history and culture. What are some ways students can get their teachers and schools involved in this effort?

One of the first actions we took after the AAPI Youth Rising rally was launching our ONE/180 pledge, which asks students, teachers, and schools to include at least one classroom lesson about AAPI history and culture within the 180 instructional days in the average school year.

Did you know that 6% of the U.S. population is Asian American and that AAPI represent nearly 50 ethnic groups and speak more than 100 languages? We are a diverse group! We also make up the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group among eligible U.S. voters. Yet only a few Asian American Pacific Islander stories are taught in K-12 U.S. schools. It’s now more important than ever before to have our stories told. Finally, it’s important to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and contributions that AAPI have made in this country.

AAPI Youth Rising is a youth-led organization. Why is it important for young people to share their voices?

As youth, we are writing our own futures and it is our responsibility to lead the way by making our voices heard. We must share our hopes, dreams, and ideas to make this world a better place. Although youth may feel like our voices don’t make a difference, they do! It’s amazing how small actions and speaking up about things that you believe in can inspire change. - Mina Fedor, AAPI Youth Rising Founder

It is important for young people to share their voices and get involved in their communities because it makes a big impact on everyone. When young people step forward, it often encourages others to do the same. By sharing our voices, we show that we are just as capable as anyone else, no matter our age. - Siwoo Rhie, AAPI Youth Rising Board Member

Young people are the next generation and we have to step up in making the world a more inclusive place. - Aashiyana Gupta, AAPI Youth Rising Board Member

I think it is important for kids to speak up because it's their future that they are taking control of and having a voice in their own lives. - Mila Cavagnaro, AAPI Youth Rising Board Member

Like the kids in your group, Corinne, our Girl of the Year, finds the courage to challenge negative stereotypes. What message(s) do you hope readers will take away from these stories?

You are never too young to raise your voice and to make a difference. Like Corinne, we should all feel empowered to speak out against negative stereotypes. You can speak out, be an ally, and a good friend! By starting small and being kind to those around you, you are making a difference. - Mina Fedor, AAPI Youth Rising Board Member

I hope readers learn to stand up for themselves and be proud of who they are and where they came from. - Mila Cavagnaro, AAPI Youth Rising Board Member

Learn about others and their culture before making assumptions. Share your own experiences with others. Talk to and make friends with people who are different from yourself. - Aashiyana Gupta, AAPI Youth Rising Board Member

How can people support AAPI-Youth Rising’s mission?

You can start small! You can watch a movie, listen to music, or try food from a culture other than your own. Challenge stereotypes and speak out about things that matter to you and your community.

Check out the ONE/180 pledge to support at least one day of AAPI history and culture during the school year. Learn about other cultural traditions, languages, and histories. Share your knowledge with your family and friends.

Join AAPI Youth Rising! We always welcome new members! You can apply to be the leader of your own chapter at your school and we will provide you with the toolkit, resources, and network to organize action in your community. Finally, you can follow our organization on social media. We’d love to hear from you! Check out our Instagram @aapiyouthrising and our website www.aapiyouthrising.org.

American Girl has donated $25,000 to support AAPI Youth Rising’s ONE/180 pledge, asking schools and teachers across the country to teach at least one day of Asian American and Pacific Islander history and culture during the school year. *Customer donations can be made online using the links below, by calling toll free at 1-800-845-0005, and at American Girl stores nationwide.

$1 donation | $5 donation | $10 donation

To learn more about how American Girl is helping AAPI Youth Rising, visit www.americangirl.com/corinne

Explore more of Corinne’s story with Corinne and Corinne to the Rescue by Wendy Shang. Illustrations by Peijin Yang. If your girl wants to learn more about creating an inclusive world for everyone, check out A Smart Girl’s Guide: Race & Inclusion by Deanna Singh.

* 100% of all consumer donations received by American Girl on behalf of AAPI Youth Rising at its retail stores and through its website between December 30, 2021 and December 30, 2022 (inclusively) in support of this project will be remitted to AAPI Youth Rising. The receipt we issue serves as acknowledgment of your donation to AAPI Youth Rising. If American Girl provides Donors with a printed Donation receipt (i.e., on printed register or email receipt), the receipt shall include the following: “A donation of $AMOUNT was made to support AAPI Youth Rising, a 501c(3) US Public Charity. No goods or services were provided by AAPI Youth Rising in return for the donation." The AAPI Youth Rising name, emblem and any copyrighted materials are being used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company, opinion or political position. The AAPI Youth Rising logo(s) is a registered or unregistered trademark owned by AAPI Youth Rising. For more information about AAPI Youth Rising, please visit www.aapiyouthrising.org.

©2022 American Girl. American Girl and associated trademarks are owned by American Girl, LLC.

Related Articles