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A majority of Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL)’s interns and scholars completed their internships last week, and as they pack to return to their respective hometowns, many anticipate the questions that will follow them from friends, family, teachers, and employers. Questions about the work they completed, the people they met, plans for the future. But what the new CAPAL alumni may question is how to formulate coherent and relevant responses for each person who asks.

They can take a cue from Tuesday’s Conservation Careers Symposium, where they went through USA Jobs Training and received resume-writing tips from representatives at the Department of the Interior and Defenders of Wildlife. There, they learned the intricacies of navigating for jobs in the government, particularly the value in writing as much as possible about themselves and their accomplishments. When “no federal resume is too long,” there is the implication that no experience is disposable. School courses, creative projects, volunteer activities, unpaid dalliances, all can be parsed down to help applicants fit into the box of a job description and then expand beyond its boundaries when interviewing. The attendees were left with overarching advice applicable to more than applications: “Don’t undervalue yourself.”

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Outside of written accomplishments and formal interviews, different forms of expression were introduced to the scholars and interns at CAPAL’s Washington Leadership Program Session VI: Art, Culture, and Storytelling, the last of the series. Adriel Luis (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center – Curator of Digital and Emerging Media) showcased three performance mediums to tell stories pertinent to his life, from the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong to a digital exhibit he recently curated. Walking attendees through spoken word, music production, and film, a distinct perspective shift from traditional presentation and its subsequent effectiveness became understood by audience members. Rob Buscher (Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival – Festival Director) offered his own insight about the power of storytelling in film and how he has combined public service and advocacy with his creative work. To these panelists, everyone is a storyteller and their histories and lives are stories that can be told through whatever medium most inspires the teller. For them the importance of storytelling goes beyond personal release, but into validating the experiences of others as well. They encouraged the attendees to share what they learn and experience, fostering community and service.

“Storytelling is a direct line into empathy.”

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At the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge on Friday, the intersection of service and storytelling was emphasized when Refuge Manager Brad Knudsen elaborated on the history of Patuxent, and its role in saving endangered species such as the Whooping Crane or providing integral research to Rachel Carson to expose the harmful effects of DDT to spark an environmentalist movement. Scholars and interns had the opportunity to tour the first wildlife refuge focused specifically on research, learning about tracking birds, migration patterns, and how ecosystems are so intricately tied from oysters at the bottom of bay to birds of prey. The story of Patuxent and its contributions was emphasized throughout the day, leaving those in attendance with a base of knowledge many were largely unaware of previous to Friday. That knowledge and the knowledge from every opportunity provided throughout the summer by CAPAL can be used by each intern and scholar as they continue with their schooling and careers, contributing to their own stories.

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CAPAL’s interns and scholars have a lot to talk about. A summer of roundtables, free lunches, happy hours, government tours, leadership trainings, table talks, networking sessions. How they choose to share their experiences is dependent on the individual, and that those experiences will be shared in the first place is the first step towards making history. A history of friends, leadership, service, of a summer that will continue to impact what they do for themselves and their communities.

“Storytelling is elastic, like how we want to live our lives moving forward.”


CAPAL’s Mission: Promote AAPI interests and success in public service careers, to provide information and education on policy issues affecting the AAPI community, and to serve the AAPI community at large.

Posted by Felicia Wong

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Felicia Wong is currently a senior at the College of William and Mary, double majoring in Neuroscience and Asian American Studies, and minoring in Biochemistry. She is president of the Filipino American Student Association, and current non-academic projects include creating films calling for greater diversity curriculums/requirements and establishing an official APIA Studies program on campus. Felicia was also elected president of Global Medical Brigades her junior year to lead a sustainable healthcare program in Nicaragua. She hopes to connect her interests in healthcare with the community she has found in her cultural background and teachings. Having lived in Germany for most of her childhood, Felicia makes yearly trips back to visit her family, providing opportunities for her to indulge in her greatest joys: touring castles, eating at cafés, taking fashion cues from strangers, cooking with her family. Non-country specific pleasures include: biking, watching live music performances, screaming because Game of Thrones.