Every year since my freshman year of High School, I have attended The Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Retreat. I first got involved in the Asian Pacific Youth Council in 2009. After a year of getting to know everyone in the council, I attended the group’s 2nd annual trip. Since that retreat, I have always looked forward to go again. From the minute we arrived at the State Capitol until the minute we left, I was always engaged in team building activities.
The most recent retreat was held at the Vermillion River College in Ely, Minnesota. I was skeptical at first because we would usually go to Bay Lake Camp, but none the less I knew I couldn’t miss out on this opportunity. I found that this new location benefited me because I got to visit a college campus and see what it would be like to go to that particular school. I first time I had met MNSCU staff was in 2009 at APYC’s first event at the Guthrie. Looking back, I don’t think I realized how major it was for me to be meeting the people that could send me to my dream school or launch me in my passion and future career.
At the retreats opening ceremony we had brought up conflicts that we felt we faced in society today and in social media and how it has affected the our world today. Being like any other teenager, I love to browse on the internet and stay connected with friends and family that I don’t see on a regular basis so I could relate to this year’s theme of ‘Social Media and Civic Engagement.’ During the retreat, we broke down into smaller action group teams and picked our own topic to educate our peers with. My group’s topic was depression and self-esteem. In our groups, we worked as a team to see who could get their word out the most via blog posts, videos, and tweets. Throughout the whole week we worked daily to raise awareness for many things. It was fun to learn about how much we all care about certain subjects and to learn about them as well.
We also broke into different sub groups to highlight our talents. Within a week, each of our subgroups produced a artistic piece based on our talents. We had music, dance, film, drama, and art groups. I am a dancer and usually naturally gravitate to what I know best, but this year, I took a chance and joined the music group. Being with the music group really boosted my confidence with vocals and voicing my opinion. I loved that all the groups were so talented in so many different ways.
Taking advantage of the natural environment in Ely we were able to enjoy outdoor activities. Although I’m not naturally an outdoorsy girl, I enjoyed learning about nature. We also took classes at the college that taught us how to identify trees and purify water. We learned about the jobs that many people do that we never really think of or don’t appreciate. One of the most memorable activities was our camping overnighter. We had no access to electricity, phones, internet, nothing. Just us, nature, and what we brought along. The guides made it really interesting and I personally learned a lot and grew fond of being able to sit out and just gaze at the stars.
The people that attended this retreat are all of Asian descent, but because there are various ethnicities in the Asian community we learned about so many different cultures but also learned that we are all still similar in many aspects. My favorite thing about the retreat every year is how close we all become and learn that we are all human that have different experiences growing up but share many similar aspects. Also, that we all have pasts we’re trying to escape, stories to tell, lessons learned, and obstacles we’ve overcome. I am grateful to have a welcoming and loving environment with people who genuinely care about each other after such a short amount of time together. From the mentors, to the staff, to the mentees we all were a part of something great and put on a great week for each other.
I would recommend this retreat to anyone interested in having a good camp experience and willing to step out of their element. Everyone that goes to the camp is usually very welcoming and friendly. I’ve witnessed so many mentees go from completely introverted to being outgoing and taking the leader role in activities. It’s definitely an event that has changed my life to appreciate the things I have and be thankful with the life I was given. Everyone becomes close and tight knit family in such a short period of time. I have met some of my best friends through this retreat and think it’s a great way to start off anyone’s summer.
Article was written by Asian Pacific Youth Council member, Latifah Moss.
For more information photos from the retreat, please click here.