My time at the University of Michigan has been so invaluable to me. Though my academic pursuits have definitely shaped who I am today as an individual, my passion for activism and advocacy would not exist to its fullest extent had it not been for the amazing work of Asian, Pacific Islander, Asian-American and Pacific Islander-American student leaders and organizers.

These leaders of color from different backgrounds at the University have challenged me to think differently about my worldview. Many of them have taught me to embrace my Filipino-American identity unapologetically and use my passion for the community to be heard, stand up and speak out. My most cherished college memories, perhaps even overall favorite life memories, are the ones I have spent with these people, who I call close friends. However, I feel as though much of their hard work goes unrecognized.

The upcoming Asian/Pacific Islander Graduation Ceremonies on Sunday, April 29, serves to honor the 2018 graduating class of Asian, Pacific Islander, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander-American students. The ceremony attempts to recognize the different nuances of the diaspora and uncover our connected yet missing histories. As it is the first graduation ceremony celebrating A/PIA students, the student advisory board hopes the special event expands the notions of diversity, equity and inclusion. The A/PIA graduation ceremony is a symbol that stands against a hostile air of racism and discrimination.

“Planning the API Graduation Ceremony has been about forging a culturally inclusive celebration — one that allows our community to gather in a collective space to honor our hard-earned degrees while seeing how beautiful and unimaginably diverse the Asian/Pacific Islander student experience is,” said Danny Park, success coach and API Graduation program coordinator for the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

Though I myself am will not be graduating at the end of the winter 2018 semester, my hope is to honor those who have come before me pave the path with their own achievements and activism so I can better succeed in my personal endeavors. I do not only wish to congratulate my close friends who will be moving onto the next chapters of their lives, but rather I want to recognize the history that A/PIA students here at the University have made despite trials and tribulations. I hope the event will start a conversation that defies negative stereotyping and the idea that the A/PIA identity is monolithic.

Asian/Pacific Islander Graduation Ceremonies will be held on Sunday, April 29 in the Michigan Union Rogel Ballroom.

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