Yuan Zou, Community Engagement Internship
Civic House is My House: Meet Yuan Zou!
Civic House: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Yuan: My name is Yuan and I am a rising sophomore from Philadelphia, PA. As a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, I have been able to fully take advantage of the liberal arts education and explore different fields, so I am still undecided, though PPE will most likely be my major. I am fortunate that my somehow "pointless" search helps me find the amazing opportunities that Civic House offers. This summer, I am an intern at VietLEAD through Civic House's Community Engagement Internship program.
CH: What work or issues does VietLEAD focus on? What has your role as an intern been so far?
Yuan: VietLEAD is an organization that aims to promote youth activism and teach Vietnamese youth about their culture and heritage. I have lived in South Philly, an area with a large number of Asian residents, for seven years, and I can not agree more with VietLEAD's strong belief in the communities. Everyone's acceptance to cultural difference here in South Philly nurtures rich diversity, and as someone who attended a high school that was 95% students of color, I know how important it is to live in an environment in which everyone's heritage will be respected. So when I heard about VietLEAD, I applied right away.
Working with VietLEAD gives me an opportunity to bring blueprints to reality. As a non-profit, VietLEAD has to be careful and smart about many things, and the nature of my organization requires everyone of us to be courageous, and yet thoughtful. I learn that all the paperwork actually means something, and attending professional development sessions can still productive. In addition, sitting on the admissions side of programs and given the power to recommend students, I began to realize the responsibility that lies with power. Needless to say, being an intern at VietLEAD has helped me to mature.
CH: What first sparked your interest in community service and social justice?
Yuan: What sparks my interest in social justice is my experience as a high schooler in Philly. My high school's demographic is predominantly African American, and I, as an Asian American, personally witness the lack of care and attention from the administration to all of the students of color. So I participated in a rally two years ago with classmates, and that was my first action fighting for social justice.
CH: What has been a highlight of your Community Engagement Internship experience thus far?
Yuan: I am also "growing up" with all of the high school students that I am working with this summer. Being a college student sands down my edges and sometimes makes me more "allergic" to fun things. Thankfully, these youth help remind me that it is okay to be childish sometimes and have fun. When we were all working at our community garden in Camden, New Jersey, their passion in learning about traditional farming told me that I choose the right job. We planted tomatoes there and helped harvest a variety of veggies. Also, since it is a community farm, we also got to know some of the local Vietnamese residents in the neighborhood. It was great to be there.