Kelly Chang is in her third year as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is majoring in Society & Environment and minoring in Sustainable Environmental Design. This summer, Kelly will be interning in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Forest Service in their Multimedia Division.
What are you excited to learn about during your internship this summer?
Coming into this internship, I was most excited to learn about public service in government, AANHPIs in the sphere of politics and public service, AANHPI history, and the workings of government itself. These are all things I have limited exposure to in my social network back at home and in school, so the chance to work in the U.S. Forest Service from the communications and public affairs perspective was a wonderful opportunity to see government from both the inside and the outside! Even though I have a built skill set in multimedia, I am also passionate about policy management, environmental education, and environmental justice, so I have been going out of my way to learn more about careers related to land use at the agency. In just these past few weeks, I have been getting myself involved in preparing for the legislative hearing on S. 2599, which would return almost 12,000 acres of stolen lands back the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
What are some things that you did not expect coming into the internship?
While I am still excited to learn about all these things I previously mentioned, being halfway through my internship has already offered me a lot to learn that I did not anticipate the significance of.
My nine to five days in a cubicle of a fireproof office next to the Washington Monument has been predictably the same every day, but I am constantly learn something new about myself and how I relate with others whether through the context of my workplace or outside of it in CAPAL. Already, this summer has been one of the most perspective changing and personally enriching summers of my life.
I initially thought I would be learning the most about public service and potential future careers, but I am actually learning the most about taking care of myself, my passions, and navigating my identity as a woman of color in the nine to five life. Through real life experiences, I am learning so much more about how empowering the presence of other AANHPI womxn being in the room can be and how deeply microaggressions on a daily basis can impact personal resiliency. My student activism in college during my own political awakening has equipped me with a lot of knowledge on issues like systemic racism, income inequality, microaggressions, and oppression, but witnessing and even experiencing these things firsthand or alongside others in a completely different environment in Washington D.C. has profoundly grounded me in a journey of learning about myself and my relation to others.
What are the projects that you’re working on this summer and how are they connected to your interests in public service?
This summer, I am working alongside 4 other CAPAL interns and scholars on a community action project with National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, which is a coalition of more than 100 community based organizations working to improve the quality of life for low-income Asian American and Pacific Islanders by promoting economic vitality, civic and political participation, and racial equity.
Our project focuses on the impact of gentrification on health in low-income AAPI communities by creating a national database of geographical locations (from ZIP codes to FIPS codes) alongside various health indicators (health insurance coverage and likeliness of cancer). Low-income AAPIs are disproportionately impacted (approximately twice as likely as the poverty population of any other racial or ethnic group) by rapidly rising housing costs in urban neighborhoods undergoing gentrification, so our work will offer new, valuable information in the field of environmental justice, public health, and economic inequality. As someone who is majoring in Society and Environment with a focus on environmental health and development, I feel so immensely lucky and proud to have contributed to such a directly impactful project in my community that so closely aligns with my passion and belief that a healthy life and healthy environment is a human right.
I will also say that the topic of gentrification is particularly salient for me as we’ve been working on this project. Coming from Berkeley, California, where our neighbors in Oakland have been facing rapid gentrification it felt incredibly eerie and uncomfortable to be living in D.C. right now, where I walk through neighborhoods very visibly undergoing gentrification and think about my own roles and responsibilities in multiple communities.
What do you do in your free time?
I don’t have a lot of this “free time” but when I’m not playing the bagpipes (which is most of the time) I do photography and catalog dogs that I’ve met. I’ll take a photo with them, learn their names, write small bios for them, and post them on Instagram. It’s sort of become my secret passion project and people seem to always get a kick out of finding it. Recently in the past year or so, I’ve also been really getting into “vlogging” my daily life on Instagram.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I heard this advice from the panel at the WLP: Education for All: The Fight For Equity event, from either Dr. Melissa Kapadia or Bruce Leal and that is that, in finding the issue or cause we are most passionate about to dedicate our lives to in context of other marginalized groups, “we must grow inwards to grow outwards.” In my work, I often struggled with finding the best way for me to be in solidarity with other marginalized identities, so hearing this completely reframed what it meant to grow and to know myself, as I had not prioritized understanding my own history and identity up until that point. It is absolutely vital to understand ourselves if we intend to understand others.
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