On my way back to the University of Michigan, I tried studying for my biostatistics exam that was waiting for me the upcoming week.

Likelihood. Significance. Confidence. All-important statistical concepts I should have been reviewing, yet my mind could not help but associate them with the adventurous weekend I had in the San Francisco Bay Area from January 25-28 with what are now my newfound families: the Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.

What was the likelihood that I would meet so many amazing, inspiring people?
Who would have thought one weekend would be so significant to me?
How is it possible to have gained so much self-confidence to become a better leader?

I don’t really mind if I don’t have answers to all the questions left in my head. What matters to me is that I am extremely grateful to have had an opportunity to represent the Midwest youth and to learn from so many bright Filipinx American leaders around the nation.

NaFFAA is a non-partisan and non-profit organization committed to amplifying the voice of Filipinx Americans through the development of leadership, civic engagement and advocacy. As the largest national affiliation of Filipinx American institutions, NaFFAA has implemented the EPYC ambassadors program to connect the younger generation of Filipinx Americans to the older generation of Filipinx Americans through the strengthening of personal and professional development.

As EPYC ambassadors, we were fortunate enough to explore Google (thanks to the Filipino Google Network) and ABS-CBN, a Philippine news and media enterprise, on Friday to talk with seasoned experts of the tech and media industry. Conversations were centered around Filipinx American identity and its impact on careers. Each person was more than happy to give advice to us younger Filipinx Americans. After, we attended the NaFFAA Leadership Summit Welcome Reception at the Philippine Consulate. Several NaFFAA and Filipinx Americans leaders delivered inspiring speeches: Calls to action to empower and connect our community.

Saturday came, and the day was dedicated to leadership development. While the Board of Governors convened, the EPYC ambassadors and I gathered to discuss crucial topics concerning leadership and advocacy, such as workshop building, conflict resolution and coalition building. We also had a chance to sit into the Board of Governors meeting, talk to the rest of NaFFAA leadership to present the concerns of younger generations in our prospective regions, and reveal each of our EPYC Capstone Projects. Overall, I felt so thankful to have a chance to connect to the Filipino-American community among different generations and regions. It’s important to me that we, as a community, are united.

My favorite part throughout this incredible experience was simply existing in such a welcoming space. Prior to the weekend, the EPYC ambassadors had never been in one room together. Most of us had only spoken to each other via our monthly webinar and the occasional Facebook message. But, when I first walked into the house we stayed at, I was immediately met with kindness and a sense of familiarity. Throughout the weekend, we had deep conversations about our lives as Filipinx American student leaders, but also about our lives as humans in general. I felt so comfortable being open — as if I knew my fellow ambassadors for all my life. It was sad to have the weekend end, but I left knowing that the bond we made will bring us back together again.

To Brendan Flores, our favorite “kuya,” and countless others who are a part of NaFFAA leadership, thank you so much for the opportunity. I hope to work more closely with you all!

To the EPYC coaches and Jason and Leezel, I can’t thank you all enough for all the work you do for us ambassadors. Your guidance has given me new direction to become a better leader and advocate. The dedication you have to uplift the Filipino American youth motivates me to do the same.

To my fellow EPYC ambassadors — my colleagues and new friends — I wrote this on the airplane back to the University, and I have the biggest smile on my face. Of course it’s sad to have our first encounter be cut so short, but I know that we’ll see each other soon, and I can’t wait for that time to come! My Midwest heart is so full as you all have inspired me. What a wonderful feeling it is to have gained a new family of bold, selfless individuals like yourselves.

As I have to go back to studying, I do not dare be a statistician. I couldn’t have imagined the likelihood to have the chance like this to be so empowered. But even more so now, what I do dare to be is Filipino American with ambition.

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