On Sunday, April 8, eleven St. Mark's students attended the annual Asian-American Footsteps Conference at Deerfield Academy.
The Asian-American Footsteps Conference is a daylong series of empowering workshops, activities and networking opportunities for Asian, Asian American and mixed-heritage Asian students attending independent secondary schools in New England. The conference provides Asian, Asian American and mixed-heritage Asian students with a space to explore issues specific to their experiences.
Keynote speakers at the Conference were Wesley Chan and Philip Wang, two of the co-founders of the Asian American filmmaking company, Wong Fu Productions. Workshops included "Adoption Fusion: Discovering Where Race, Culture and Adoption Blend Together," "Asian Education vs. Western/American Education," "Cracking the Porcelain Mold: Reconciling Western Beauty Standards with Asian American Feminism," "Creating a Space," "Cultural Appropriation: Asian Americans as Victims and Perpetrators," "Dance with DBJ Dance Crew," "GAYSIANS : The LGBTQ+ Asian/Asian American Experience," "Living Between the Lines: Intersections of Our Identities," "Looking Across the 38th Parallel: Moral Dilemma Hidden Behind the Human Rights of North Koreans," "My Racial Timeline: Exploring Asian Racial Identity Development," "Opium/Opioid: Effects of a Drug on the Asian and Asian-American Experience," "Race, Person, Population: Rethinking Group Identification from an Asian Standpoint," and "The Complicated World of College Admissions and Affirmative Action From an Asian-American Perspective."
Ms. Starry Zhu, Assistant Director of Community & Equity Affairs at St. Mark's, accompanied the St. Markers on what was a successful and rewarding conference experience.
"AAFC truly broadened my eyes into seeing what the lives of other Asian Americans looked like, what issues we have prioritized that come with being Asian, and how we tried to solve through being Asian American," said Stephanie Moon '20. "I acquired a lot of knowledge about not only which I was interested in but also I didn't even know there was a topic; it stimulated my thoughts to try and answer the dilemmas that Asian Americans have faced but are not fully brought up to the surface. I feel like AAFC equipped me to answer questions that I would not have been able to answer before and also bring to my attention complex issues that need awareness."
"AAFC was an exceptional experience in so many ways," declared Angela Li '19. "The workshop sessions were just as well-planned and informative as I'd expected, but the part that made my day was getting to know my peers on a personal level—we come from such diverse backgrounds with unique life experiences, and a conference like this creates a rare opportunity to gain more insight as to how special we are as individuals, and how big of a difference we can all make.
"My experience at the Asian American Footsteps Conference was phenomenal," said Amy Kim '20. "I learned so many things from the conference, starting from the stereotypes to the keys to success in the future. I talked to many students from different schools, and this was really enjoyable for me. I am looking forward to hosting students or attending the AAFC conference for the next two years at St. Mark's."
"From content to execution, AAFC was eye-opening, thought-provoking, and empowering for me," stated Lora Xie '20. "I learned more about myself and the Asian community from the different perspectives I heard on heated issues like racial identity and the Affirmative Action. Also, inspired by the initiatives that my peers have taken, I am now more determined and equipped to change my school and even the bigger world for the better. Perhaps most importantly, it was a great place to meet really, really, really cool people!"
"Not only was it a great opportunity for me to make professional connections," said Ms. Zhu, "but it was also truly a pleasure to witness 11 St. Markers actively participating in workshops and contributing to meaningful discussions. I strongly believe that this conference has inspired and empowered many of them to be leaders in the field of Community and Equity work at St. Mark's!"
SM alumnus Hans Zhou is equally emphatic. "AAFC was really one of the most empowering and eye-opening experiences that I had during my first year at SM," he declares. "Keep sending kids to this conference, please!"