Sai-kit Jeremy Lee identifies as a second-generation Hong Kong Thai Chinese American, born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a rising senior at the George Washington University in DC, he is majoring in Asian Studies and Chinese, and minoring in Korean and Organizational Sciences. At GWU, Jeremy co-founded GW’s Asian American Student Association Spring 2017 and currently serves as its president. This summer he is interning with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at the Department of Education.
Why did you decide to spend your summer with CAPAL?
I first heard about CAPAL when I met Felicia Wong, one of CAPAL’s staff members, at an AANHPI networking event. It sounded like an awesome program, but I wasn’t sure it was a good fit for me. However, as president of the George Washington University’s Asian American Student Association (AASA), I figured someone in AASA would benefit from this program, so I invited Felicia to speak at one of our events.
During the presentation, Felicia shared not only about the internship component of CAPAL, but everything else that comes with spending your summer with CAPAL. What ultimately drew me into CAPAL was the Washington Leadership Program (WLP). In fact, I got teary eyed after attending the first WLP “Strengthening Our Roots”. It was inspiring hearing from AAPI professionals from all over talk about the importance of knowing our history and sharing our stories. The WLP sessions feel like a place where I can feel safe knowing that my narrative will be heard if I share it, but also a place where I can learn from others and be challenged. Honestly, they’re what I’ve been hoping my events on campus are like! (Plus you can never go wrong with good free food!)
Why is public service important to you?
Growing up I would spend many hours at other people’s homes while my parents helped them. My dad might be helping someone fix a computer while my mom would cook food for them. Honestly, I didn’t even know the people my parents helped half the time, but they would always help others, even before they helped themselves!
They’ve instilled in me this idea that I can always serve other people. Thus, public service is important to me because I want to serve my community. I want to help serve those who don’t have the resources to do things themselves and amplify the voices of those who are often overlooked! Public service excites me because it’s a way for me to show love to those around me.
What are the projects that you’re working on this summer and how are they connected to your interests in public service?
I’m working on a few projects this summer. The first project is to help organize meetings for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ (WHIAAPI) Interagency Working Group. These meetings bring together representatives from all over the federal government and not only give us an opportunity to hear how each agency and department are serving AANHPIs, but also share with them why it’s important to have resources for our community. Another type of event I’ve helped organized is my Executive Director’s National Meet & Greet Tour. Through this project I get to learn about the needs of local AANHPI communities. For example, the needs of Bhutanese Americans in Des Moines, Iowa, are starkly different when compared to the aging Chinese American population in Phoenix, Arizona. Finally, my fellow interns and I have been planning and organizing WHIAAPI’s annual Youth Summit. Our theme this year is “Going for Gold”. I’m excited for this event as it will give AANHPI youth in DC the opportunity to hear from award winning AAPI figures. Representation matters so I’m excited to see how this event my inspire us to continue to pursue our goals.
I’ve also had the chance to work on projects related to data disaggregation. For example, I had to look through census data to create tables and charts that show how diverse and different the needs of each sub-community in the AANHPI community is. I always knew the importance of data disaggregation, but actually seeing the data has made me realized just how large the divide is in the AANHPI community.
My final major project is to write a research paper of sorts. I haven’t finalized what I want to research, but I hope to use this as a chance to learn something about the AANHPI community I’m not too familiar with!
What do you do in your free time?
When I have free time, and don’t feel like a zombie, I love learning languages! I’m currently trying to learn the Thai alphabet, keep up on my Korean, and get better at professional Chinese, but I’m always open to learning new languages!
When I’m not as well rested, I like to read about articles, books, and magazines about the AANHPI experience especially the intersection of faith and ethnicity (my favorite book is Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents). I’ve also gotten into the habit of watching CW shows like the Flash, and Hong Kong sitcoms (愛·回家).
Oh! And cooking. I love cooking!
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
REST. I’m really bad at resting, but it’s honestly the best piece of advice I’ve received (and continue to hear from my friends). Like not “watch tv while eating junk food” rest, but like emotional and spiritual rest.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Sharon Le is a rising third-year student at the University of Virginia, double majoring in Psychology and Spanish, on the Pre-Law track. Sharon served as the External Vice President for the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA@UVA) the past year, and is also involved in Phi Alpha Delta – the International Pre-Law Fraternity, and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team at the University. She was greatly exposed to the Asian Pacific American representation not only through her involvement with the Vietnamese community in Northern Virginia with VSA but also through her background – having grown up in Vietnam and moving to America in high school. Sharon hopes to promote Asian Pacific American leadership with her commitments and to give the community a bigger voice in the country.