St. Cloud Chapter Teen Retreat

From a teen participant:

‘We pledge allegiance to the school
of the NAPAWF Unification
That we will learn and step up
To our FULL potential of Education
That we will stay informed and
Stay in school at all times.
And we will not let the barrier of ignorance by others
Halt our success in our lives.
With Liberty and Justice for all.”

From May 24-25, 2008, the NAPAWF-St. Cloud chapter organized a teen retreat that took place at the Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria, MN.  Alexandria is about two hours from the Twin Cities and an hour 15 minutes from St. Cloud (far enough from family and friends – and boyfriends!). The teen retreat brought together 22 teen API girls ranging in age from 14 to 19. There were three presenters who gave of their time and skills: Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of NAPAWF; Ilean Her, Executive Director of the State Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans; and Professor Dr. Kyoko Kishimoto, Associate Director and Professor, Multicultural Resource Center and Ethnic Studies at St. Cloud State University.

The teens learned about NAPAWF’s social justice work, talked about what they wanted to change, and the challenges they faced encountering racism in their schools and communities.

Issues that were discussed during the retreat included racism and discrimination, anti-violence, better (positive) self-images, and better schools. Because of the retreat, some of the teens from a high school in St. Cloud wanted to start an Asian club/group. They formed the Asian Students Association at Apollo High School later that year. They look to other students of color and recognize that they have a support system of mentors and a community that they had previously felt they were lacking. Our chapter continues to support these young women in their search for community.

During the workshops at the teen retreat, we were able to engage the teens in asking them to contemplate where they wanted to be in 10 years, “How they got here today,” and “What are some stereotypes of Asian, Asian American and Hapa folks?” They did skits, made posters, and even created a song.

Keep Learning Song
Just keep learning…just keep learning now.
Just don’t care what those other teachers say.
I’m here for you now…
We need a better education, so you teachers better step it up now.
We need positive empowerment and more diversity in our school.
So, keep learning, just keep learning now.
Cause one day they’ll cave
But we’re better off now…
So keep learning, just keep, keep learning now.

It is from these skits and posters that we really were able to see into the hearts and minds of these young women. They have a lot to say and are very aware of their environment and their everyday lived realities. Although teens are often dismissed and seen as not being aware of much outside of their own world these young women are keen to their lives and the world they are living in and do not intend to sit quietly as bystanders.

In the words of one of the participants:
“I learned that we have to change what we see wrong and that there are people out there who feel the same, and might want to help… I liked the food!  The activities you had us do and the swimming- thank you! I didn’t like everyone else staring at us… but I guess we’re just that fabulous! But seriously! I had fun, I learned new things and am very thankful! Thank you.”