As children, we are always told that making friends is a simple task. According to elementary teachers, the simple gesture of sharing a snack will garner you a pack of friends almost instantaneously. Unfortunately, as one grows older, that is no longer the case. The teenage years are infamously known as the years of relentless awkwardness, trying to find one’s self, all the while attending high school, a place plagued with cliques and strange social norms. Of course sharing your snack will not gain any friends in this environment. Making friends in high school is hard. While trying to fit in, how can one simultaneously manage to make friends while feeling pressured, discover his or her identity and manage to keep their grades up? In addition to the crisis, the confidence levels of teens fall as they struggle to try and balance these situations. To add to the pressure, Asian students find themselves doubly impacted. Already a minority, Asian students definitely feel the need to fit in, thus making their struggle to find and make the right friends, be confident and be themselves extremely difficult. However, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans has set up an annual retreat that helps alleviate the stress put on many Asian American students and shape them into today’s future’s leaders.
The annual Asian Youth Leadership Retreat instituted by the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans has truly been a remarkable entity in which helps Asian students not only find their own identity and become confident leaders, but also helps them to make friends with other Asian students in similar situations. For the past three years, the retreat has been designed to act as a safe haven for Asian students enabling them to truly be themselves without the constraints of high school norms and standards.
The Asian Youth Leadership Retreat implements a week long rigorous course designed to help Asian teens find their identity during high school, a time where they may feel pressured and lost. A week long program of reflection and team building activities gives these Asian teens time to reflect and reassess their position and contribution to society. Through the week, most of the teens had gotten a grasp on what they wanted their identity to become in the future; “The retreat has made me more aware of the Asian American community more than before. The retreat has allowed me to reevaluate my position in the Hindu community and take on a leadership role”. Many teens realized that after having attended the retreat, they wanted to identify with the Asian American community, one teen stated, “As an Asian American, I would like to show the world what Asians are capable of doing and achieving”.
After the retreat, many students confessed that it was out of their character to open up to others so quickly, however the retreat had provided an environment that enabled them to do so. One teen even stated, “Everyone was so open-minded about meeting new people and getting to know each other on a deep level. It would be rare to experience this kind of belonging outside of camp”. As a result, the teens quickly made friends; one student reflected, “I never would have guessed that after the retreat I would have made so many friends”. At the retreat, making friends seemed so easy and many teens began making friends on the very first day. Many of these same individuals continued their friendships well after the retreat ended, thus making success of the retreat’s goal of opening up Asian teens and allowing them to make friends. The fact that these students were able to create lasting friendships with other teens that they had previously known for only a week, served as a testimony to the success of CAPM’s Asian Youth Leadership Retreat. Although making friends and having a lasting friendship may seem frivolous and simple to some, the truth of the matter is, for teens, specifically Asian teens, this gesture and action are hard to do.
After allowing the teens to discover themselves and make friends, the retreat activities also taught the Asian teens how to become leaders and how to have confidence in themselves. Many teens reported higher levels of confidence and better leadership skills after having gone through the activities. “The retreat helped boost my confidence. I think that this will help me take up leadership roles in my school and community because it will allow me to speak up and stand up for my Asian culture”, one teen had previously said after the retreat. Another teen spoke on behalf of his leadership skills by stating, “The retreat has given me the strength and will to make a difference in the community, and to lead others to follow my path”. CAPM’s retreat has successfully taught Asian teens how to find their own identity, be themselves, make friends, be confident and become leaders, something that is not taught within the four years of high school. After each retreat, many teens express that attending the retreat has changed them for the better. CAPM’s Asian Youth Leadership Retreat has received many raved reviews by all of its participants, all of whom say that they would recommend this retreat to other Asian teens. This year, CAPM will take 60 students during the last week of June for a week long retreat in Ely Minnesota where they will learn the art of identity, friendships, and confidence, ultimately shaping them and giving them the skills necessary to become future leaders.
Calvin Va Her
APYC Social Media Chair