Volunteers at New York's Yung Wing School on Yale's Day of Service, May 16, 2009

Introduction

In last year’s AAAYA Annual Report, the first for our young organization, we reported that we were “well on the road” to accomplishing our ambitious goal of “creating a national organization that would ‘promote the civic participation, leadership and service of Asian Americans and Asians at Yale and in the broader society.'”

If we were “well on the road” at the end of 2008, then 2009 marked a year when we  gained significant momentum.  The number of programs and events for alumni, students, and our communities reached critical mass,  powered by the enthusiasm and hard work of a growing national network of volunteers united by a shared vision.

Hundreds of alumni, students, and friends came out for over twenty-five events in five metro areas. This annual report highlights the most significant of the organization’s activities and milestones of 2009.

Building a National Alumni Organization

Part of “building a national alumni organization” means creating the infrastructure that will allow us to grow and sustain ourselves. In 2007, we made an important first step towards this by officially incorporating; in 2008, we brought together a board of directors; and in 2009, we were officially registered with the IRS as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. This latest achievement is a huge step forward for AAAYA: in addition to making it easier for us to accept donations, it signifies the permanence and stability of our organization.

All of the infrastructure described above–the national board, the 501(c)3 status–exists to enable and support our local chapters.  Our local chapters are how we hope to achieve our ambitious goal of representing and serving Asian & Asian American alumni, wherever they may be. With chapters already in place in New York and Northern California (San Francisco), in 2009, AAAYA formally established new local chapters in Chicago and Southern California (Los Angeles), thereby greatly expanding our geographical presence and our ability to reach alumni, students, and our communities.

Strengthening Alumni Ties

2009 saw an increase in both the number and diversity of activities that brought alumni together. Alumni came together to enjoy a wide variety of cultural, social, and educational events: New York hosted its first annual Lunar New Year and Holiday/End of Year celebrations and co-hosted a Korean Thanksgiving lunch, and Northern California hosted its own Holiday/End of Year party as well as happy hours & picnics earlier in the year.

AAAYA branched out in particular to arts-related events in 2009: both New York and Northern California arranged private art exhibitions for alumni: the Isamu Noguchi museum and the “Present Tense Biennial: Chinese Character” showcase, respectively. Northern California brought alumni together for a performance of the play “Yellow Face,” including a private Q&A after the show with David Henry Hwang, playwright (Drama School ’83), and lead actors Francis Jue ’86 and Pun Bandhu (Drama School ’01).

Other notable events this past year included a dinner with Yale Global Online editor Nayan Chanda and Yale Professor Marian Chertow in Northern California, and a soccer game outing in Chicago.

AAAYA and the Community

Service to the community remained a strong focus for AAAYA in 2009. In the summer of 2009, AAAYA sponsored four Yale undergraduates’ internships in Asian American community organizations, both through AYA’s Community Service Summer Fellowship program and AAAYA’s own Tina Yeh Fellowship. These fellowships were all made possible through the generous financial contributions of alumni.

This year’s student interns worked with organizations in New York and Washington, DC. New York interns worked with the New York Asian Women’s Center, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and the Committee Against Asian Violence. The Washington, DC intern worked with the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center.

AAAYA also participated directly in community service through its strong showing at AYA’s worldwide Yale Day of Service on May 16. Over 180 alumni and friends participated in AAAYA sponsored community service sites in Chicago, San Francisco (Northern California), New York, and Los Angeles (Southern California).

In New York, volunteers spent the day at the Yung Wing School in NYC’s Chinatown (named after Yale’s own Yung Wing, class of 1854) scanning books in the library, preparing class materials, and planting flowers in the garden. Southern California volunteers helped run the Little Tokyo Service Center’s San Tai San (3 on 3) basketball tournament for kids ranging from 7 to 12 years old. Chicago volunteers partnered with the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce to clean and plant flowers along Wentworth Avenue. Northern California volunteers spent the day at the Angel Island Immigration Station, the “Ellis Island of the West,” cleaning and preparing for a poetry reading.

AAAYA’s turnout for the Yale Day of Service was so strong that many in the Yale community took notice, including university Vice President Linda Koch Lorimer. In her email to the entire Yale alumni community, she included the above video of our AAAYA’s Los Angeles service site as an uplifting example of that day’s accomplishments.

The Southern California chapter went on to organize several other community service events this year. SoCal Alumni volunteered at a health fair, food bank, and even to decorate floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade!

La Canada Flintridge float “Scissored Wizard” won the Fantasy Award-Most Outstanding Display of fantasy & Imagination in 2010 Rose Parade.

Connecting with Campus

In 2009, AAAYA gave back to students on campus, both in familiar ways and unexpected ways. AAAYA continued its participation in the annual “Life After Yale” mentoring dinner on campus and student/alumni outreach dinner in New York City. Our Spring Break Externship program, now in its third year, expanded both in size and scope. In 2009 the program went from hosting seven externs at six cites in New York to hosting eight externs in sites in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Students shadowed their alumni sponsors for one week at workplaces ranging from financial firms to community organizations.
In September, when tragedy struck Yale’s campus, AAAYA spoke on behalf of Asian alumni in response to the tragic murder of Annie Le. Representatives of the Northern California chapter attended her funeral and expressed condolences on behalf of the university community and AAAYA.

AAAYA also shared in the common hope to bring about some good from this tragedy. After the university established a memorial scholarship in her name, AAAYA helped raise over $3,900 to the fund.

As our candles burn, let us ponder and take comfort in each other’s presence. Our hearts go out to the family of Annie Le, to her fiancé and his family, and to her many friends. We pray for their comfort and well-being, as we honor and remember Annie.  ~ Yale President Richard Levin

November brought AAAYA back to campus for our annual board meeting and student/alumni banquet. On the eve of the Yale Harvard football game, over 70 students and alumni gathered for a reception and dinner to celebrate Asian American life at Yale and to honor Jack Hasegawa with our first annual “Friend of the Community Award.” Jack, a former general secretary of Dwight Hall, was the first director of Asian American affairs at Yale from 1981-1985. His work laid the foundation for the Asian American Cultural Center and the flourishing of Asian American student life at Yale. Many of those students are now leaders of the alumni community and organizers of AAAYA.

Conclusion & Call to Action

Although we’ve reached more alumni, students, and community members with our work than ever before, we’ve only achieved a fraction of our potential. We can build a larger alumni community. We can sponsor more externships and summer community service fellowships for students. We can help more community organizations through more volunteer projects.

We need to state clear goals that the readers can quantify and support…

How do we do this? Through your help. Here are just a few ways you can help make AAAYA in 2010 even better than it was in 2009:

  • Continue to grow the diversity and skill set of our national board. Elections are coming soon; spots are available for interested alumni. Contact us today if you’re interested.
  • Serve on your local chapter board: all of our chapters (New York, Northern California, Southern California, Chicago) are looking for alumni willing to make a commitment to serving on their board. Contact us today if you’re interested.
  • Help organize a new local chapter. We know there’s interest in Washington, DC and Boston and are open to other areas where there’s enough alumni interest. Contact Ravi Rajan today if you’re interested.
  • Volunteer to help with an event: you don’t have to commit to serving on a board, just let us know that you’re willing to help by organizing, spreading the word, or any other means.
  • Volunteer with your expertise: we could use the help of graphic designers, web programmers, accountants, gardeners (yes, gardeners), and pretty much anyone with a skill that can help our organization or our programs.
  • Spread the word: Let your fellow alumni—both Asian and non-Asian–know about AAAYA and our events.
  • Sign up for the Yahoo Group and participate in lively online discussion of Asian American politics, culture, and Yale-related news and issues.
  • Support financially: our costs aren’t huge—we’re 100% volunteer run and have no paid staff—but our programs cost money. Last year AAAYA was able to fund four stipends for community service summer fellowships; this year, we hope to fund even more, but we can only do it with alumni support.

Click here to make your tax deductible donation now—it only takes a few minutes, and every donation, no matter the size, makes a huge difference.

In 2009, countless alumni, students, and friends helped AAAYA through one of these methods, and we are so grateful for all of the support we’ve received. Now it’s your turn. Help make 2010 an even better year for AAAYA and all of the students, alumni, and community members we reach.