Wednesday, April19th, 2023
By: Sylvia Yang
Everyone has a different lived experience. It might, in fact, be impossible for any two people to have the same exact experience. We are the product of various combinations of family histories, personal histories, and social and physical environments that make even the closest of siblings unique from each other.
These diverse backgrounds shape our personal goals and filter our individual perspectives on life. Kevin, the Founder of the Asian American Dream (AAD), recognizes this fact as something to celebrate; everyone has something to offer.
Simply put, the two parts to realizing a dream are A) identifying what it is and B) pursuing that passion. Both are easier said than done.
College is a time where young adults have a new sense of independence and start to make more decisions regarding their own future. One of the earliest and most important choices a student makes is determining their major. The in-depth knowledge that they develop eventually feeds into a general direction for post-graduate life. This process is, of course, supported by in-house cheerleaders such as professors, administrative staff, and fellow classmates. However, graduating and transitioning into the working world is not always a smooth journey. Senior year presents this struggle most clearly when students are juggling schoolwork, adulting, mental and physical health, and after-graduation plans on top of it all.
Kevin speaking at AAD’s Dreams to Reality Receptionist Event on 12.16.2022.
AAD serves as a wonderful resource that supports this new transition. There are three programs offered: the Kin Mentorship Program, the Career Foundations Program, and the Virtual Career Fairs. The first two programs “develop the students very holistically and ensure that they’re ready for the jobs and internships they apply to,” then the Virtual Career Fair operates as an open hub for proactive students and employers from different organizations to meet each other one on one. In Kevin’s words, AAD’s “unique value proposition is the number of programs, the quality of our programs, and just the holistic nature of the programs.” Collectively, the entire experience provides mentorship networks, professional development training, and career advancement opportunities that create individually curated support for students.
What makes AAD different is that it targets underserved, first-generation college attendee, low-income, FAFSA-eligible, and non-target school Pan Asian American undergraduates. AAD recognizes the additional challenge of Pan Asian Americans facing “the model minority stereotype that pervades the professional workplace and greater society.” This is a misleading umbrella category, where income inequality was reported to be the highest amongst Asians in a 2018 Pew Research Center report (linked below). AAD’s vision is having this target audience become “aware of and have access to mentorship networks, professional development training, and career advancement opportunities” that may be less established outside of school resources and harder to come by with an underserved background. Kevin notes that he wishes to uplift this community, which might need extra support, and AAD’s mission is to ultimately help underserved Pan Asian American college students discover and launch their unique vision of the Asian American Dream. More on why AAD focuses on this target audience can be read here.
Image Source: https://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/07/12135642/Pew_Research_Center_Inequality-Report_FINAL.pdf
The key performance indicators that AAD assesses highlight what type of progress they hope to see in students attending their programs. Students rate how proficient they feel across 8 career readiness competencies, including factors such as leadership, teamwork, and communication, before and after the program. Besides proficiency, AAD importantly monitors a student's confidence in their abilities, knowledge, and skills to achieve their career aspirations prior to and following the program. Kevin emphasizes for both ratings that “the growth in what they submitted before and what they respond after is a big indicator of success.”
AAD not only wants to help students identify their dream but also see it as a possibility, which is where perceived proficiency and confidence ratings come into play. Some students might already be en route or have a plan in place to fulfill their goals. Others have no idea where to begin. No matter what stage a student is at in actualizing their dreams, feeling proficient and confident enough to pursue it is instrumental. Sometimes people admittedly hold themselves back, and AAD works towards “empowering students to fully embrace their dream.” Challenges become easier to face once a person believes in themself, and a confident attitude encourages people to keep going no matter how unconventional the route they want to take might be.
Kevin working on AAD from his room at Skidmore College in 2021.
No matter which way you look at it, life is short. There are 52 weekends in a year, and for most, that’s two days a week. We spend most of the week working, and if that time and effort does not feed into the end goal, or at the very least personal enjoyment, then we only have the weekends to ourselves. After recognizing how little time we have, it is easier to hone in on what is important to us as individuals and commit to working towards it. Kevin believes “anyone that has the bravery and anyone that has that passion and tenacity to dream” can achieve their vision in time.
Despite college being a particularly busy period, participating in AAD’s programs is most important during this transformational stage in life and will supplement the services already provided at school. Kevin hopes students will invest in themselves and take advantage of the benefits provided, which “can really launch and rocket their career forwards.” AAD is here to help guide students during this early stage of their journey towards reaching their personal goals.
“With a dream, the beautiful thing about them is the journey to achieving your dream. We want to really instill in people and students that the journey is just as awesome as achieving the dream itself.” – Kevin Ha