My last piece about the National Federation of Filipino American Associations was written on a plane. So naturally,this NaFFAA piece is being written during another flight. I am currently on my way to spend a summer in Washington, D.C., and I can’t help but be thankful for all that the Empowering Filipino Youth through Collaboration Ambassadors Program has done for me.
My start with EPYC almost never happened actually. It started last summer with an email forwarded by a good friend who was interning in DC at the time.
“If you haven't seen this and are interested!” was the one line in her forward. And from the prospects of connecting with other Filipinx Americans, learning more about civic engagement, and a chance to better myself as a self-proclaimed Filipino American advocate, I was definitely interested.
I knew I had to apply, but the flaw that was holding me back then was a subtle lack of confidence. I had never done anything on a national scale before. I know I harp on this a lot, but it’s still true, but growing up in small towns where cornfields are endless really shaped me. Although it grew a strong yearning for exploration of myself and my culture, I really thought work on large scales, like a national one, were for people from big cities. Before the EPYC ambassadors program, I thought that I was not qualified as someone who didn’t have a large Filipinx American community to rely on. But of course, I knew that wasn’t a valid reason to not apply. I knew that if I didn’t give it an honest try that I would regret it. I spent many days rewriting my resume, my personal statement, and asking advice from trusted confidants; I ended up sending my application while I was at a wedding in California using free, limited hotel Wi-Fi and minutes to spare on the deadline (very off-brand for me but such is life). When I got the acceptance letter from Jason Tengco, the Executive Director of NaFFAA, I was totally thrilled, to say the least.
The EPYC ambassadors program didn’t start and end with a convening in the Bay Area. Like I said before in my last article, the EPYC ambassadors program as a whole gave me the tools and resources to be a more confident leader. But within that were layers upon layers of self-discovery.
I always wondered what life was like for young Filipinx Americans outside the Midwest. Because of EPYC, I have been given the privilege to listen to the lived experiences of the rest of the ambassadors, who are now my friends. I am now able connect with my Pinoy peers all across the United States instead of speculate what diaspora looks like outside my own lived experience. I looked forward to every monthly webinar because it means learning something new about important topics such as racial justice, media, and Filipino American history. Through EPYC, I was able to rediscover the strengths of my leadership that I already had all along.
And one of the most important things I’ve learned along the way is that there is power in mobilizing the youth–not only for the future but most certainly for the issues that we as marginalized communities face daily.
My passion for civic engagement and advocacy has even more so intensified thanks to NaFFAA and EPYC. Now that I am going to intern in DC, I would like to believe that EPYC has helped light my pathway to public service. In the more immediate sense, EPYC allowed me to expand upon my skills of student organizing through a capstone project where I collaborated with many other leaders in many different Filipinx American and AAPI communities to increase civic engagement in the Midwest.
Now that my first year with EPYC is coming to a close, my hope is to continue with NaFFAA and the youth branch for years to come because I believe so much in this mission. From my perspective, EPYC is a pipeline to get aspiring, young Filipinx American leaders out into the world–for the culture and social good.
I cannot wait to see the next cohort of ambassadors and the amazing things to come. My advice? Be brave. Be unapologetic. Be EPYC.