On April 6, 2014, Nobles hosted the fourth annual Asian American Footsteps Conference. Asian, Asian American and mixed-heritage Asian students attending independent secondary schools in New England were invited for a daylong series of empowering workshops, activities and performances. Student conference leaders Grant Hou and Y-Binh Nguyen, both ’14, reflect on the day below.
The day did not start as intended. Many students were missing from each school. One facilitator was taken to the wrong classroom. The televisions were not set up. It was 9 a.m. and we were starting late. When the little things started to go wrong, we began to worry.
At about 9:10 a.m. the opening ceremony started and the Genki Sparks, a women’s taiko drumming troupe, opened with an invigorating performance that woke up and energized the audience. Then spoken word artist Sahra Vang Nguyen (sister of Kim Nguyen ’13) performed poems about family sacrifice and immigration.
Our keynote speakers, Eddie and Eric, from the Jubilee Project, talked about their nonprofit organization, which creates short films to raise awareness about issues such as autism, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS and leukemia. When they showed one of their poignant videos (watch “Fireflies” here: http://youtu.be/1d_mCmMdLIY), it stimulated laughter and tears in the audience, and we knew today would be a good day.
Throughout the day, we heard stories about workshops and we saw rooms packed from floor to ceiling with attendees. We saw students laughing and actively engaging in conversations. One chaperone said to us, “I am so jealous that these kids have this opportunity in high school.” It confirmed why we wanted to be conference leaders.
The day flew by with a networking lunch and then affinity groups where students were divided by regions of Asia (East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, etc.). Our favorite part of the day was the affinity group session lead by Nobles and St. Paul’s students—a new addition to the conference. Affinity groups gave students a chance to explore different issues within their identity and share personal experience. It was great to hear how much students enjoyed it. Many students really stepped out of their comfort zone to share stories with one another.
As day came to an end, we all took a sigh of relief. About 10 months of hard work finally ended as we all regrouped for one final picture.
The commitment, love and hard work from both teachers and students made the late nights and constant meetings worth it and made hosting the Asian American Footsteps Conference at Nobles a great experience. We learned not only about conference planning, but throughout the process, we learned why it was so important to offer this opportunity to students.
–Grant Hou and Y-Binh Nguyen, both ’14