Groups Launch Asian American, Pacific Islander Student Awareness Campaign

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by Ronald Roach

In an effort to increase college access and completion among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students, the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) and the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) organizations have launched a national campaign to bring awareness to the challenges confronting AAPI students as well as to the solutions that will help them.

Titled “We’re the Changing Face of America,” the student-centered and student-led campaign will be a “multi-layered, grassroots effort working through strategic partnerships with three of the nation’s Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs): De Anza College, City College of San Francisco, and South Seattle Community College,” according to APIASF officials. The campaign kicked off on Thursday.

“Our students have consistently told us that they need a voice; they need a platform. So, this whole project is about not only increasing student access and success, and the importance of scholarship, but it’s also about supporting the institutional capacity at the various AANAPPISI campuses,” said Neil Horikoshi, the APIASF president and executive director, during a campaign announcement teleconference briefing on Tuesday.

The campaign’s newly-inaugurated website, www.changingfaceofamerica.com, serves as an online community for campaign partners by providing fact sheets, template outreach materials, and various tools and resources. The site also features AAPI student stories aimed at campus administrators, higher education leaders, and policymakers.

APIASF officials, citing 2010 U.S. Census data, indicated that the AAPI population is expected to reach nearly 40 million people by 2050. AAPI students are projected to experience a 35 percent increase in college enrollment over the next decade. In some AAPI groups, however, nearly 65 percent of adults 25 or older will never attend college, according to the APIASF. The campaign is geared to bringing attention and support to students in AAPI communities that have had difficulty getting access to and completing college.

“What is important is that the Asian American-Pacific Islander community is the fastest growing community in the nation. And we’re often overlooked. Well, in part, this campaign is about allowing our students, community members, [and] leaders throughout the nation to be part of a national dialogue,” Horikoshi noted.

During the campaign announcement briefing, MSNBC news anchor Richard Lui talked about how he struggled while in high school and worked a few years after high school before enrolling at City College of San Francisco. Eventually, he attended and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. After earning an MBA from the University of Michigan, Lui spent several years as an executive with Fortune 500 and technology companies before becoming a journalist.

“I couldn’t be more excited about [the campaign] and for the reason that I am a product of what this effort is aiming to do—that is to increase access as well as completion among Asian American-Pacific Islanders,” Lui said, recalling that his family endured tough economic times when he was growing up.

The campaign presents the opportunity “to close that perception gap that often this idea of the Model Minority, which does not quite exist in several communities,” entirely describes Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, he said.

“I cannot help but understand the objective of ‘We’re the Changing Face of America’ campaign and its goal to not only increase access and completion to colleges and universities, but there’s a huge awareness opportunity here to close that perception gap,” about the full reality of Asian American and Pacific Islander students, Lui explained.

Dr. Robert Teranishi, the CARE principal investigator and associate professor of higher education at New York University, noted that the campaign will seek to encourage higher education practitioners and policymakers to be responsive to a rapidly changing demographic landscape.

“The AAPI community exemplifies the ‘changing face of America’… So while the [AAPI] population is growing at a rate greater than any other racial group, [it’s] also simultaneously becoming increasingly heterogeneous,” Teranishi said.

Among the more than 20 community partners of the We’re the Changing Face of America campaign are the Asian American Justice Center, the Asian Pacific Islander American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Association of Asian American Studies, American Indian Graduate Center, and the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.

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