Written by HCJ Executive Vice President Alena Auyoung
After having attended HCJ GMMs since the summer of 2020, I have to say that the May 2022 meeting was one of my favorites. Moderated by HCJ Director Colby Pacupac, four panelists were led through a discussion about their personal values, leadership experience, and Asian American Pacific Island (AAPI) identity. The panelists were Hawaii State Representative of District 20 Jackson Sayama, Filipino Jaycees of Honolulu (FJCH) President Su Lazo, FJCH Executive President (EVP) Raven Sevilleja, and JCI Deputy National President Nate Martin. With a panel of this caliber, I was bound to learn a thing or two, but I didn’t anticipate taking four pages of notes. At the end of the GMM, I realized that we have many inspiring, hardworking, and supportive Jaycees within our network who we need to tap on a regular basis to help us in foundational activities of being a Jaycee: career and personal development, networking, and serving the community.
HCJ Director Pacupac kicked off the panel discussion with a question about when and how the panelists’ interest in leadership began. What surprised me was how early and memorable the panelists’ moments were when they were exposed to opportunities to lead – we’re talking about high school and first post-college jobs, whether from speech and debate, student councilship, student journalism, or living on the mainland. I feel like this is worth mentioning, because at some point, each of us will want to take a step back and reflect on what we’ve done and where we’ve been to plan how to move forward or pivot. Part of that reflection should go back to those school years to recall youthful passions and accomplishments so that we can keep doing what worked, keep pursuing our genuine interests, and keep remembering our roots to appreciate how far we’ve come.
The topic of AAPI identity followed a few preliminary questions. As a Hawaii transplant from the mainland, I find this topic challenging to get a hold of in Hawaii because the typical challenges of bamboo ceiling, perpetual discrimination by non-AAPIs, and lack of AAPI visibility aren’t as prevelanet as they are elsewhere in the country. However, for those whose AAPI identity came to the forefront while working on the mainland, the panelists realized that representation is still lacking, even though it’s critical to the advancement of AAPIs. Without AAPI representation, stereotypes perpetuate. Without AAPI representation, our fellow AAPI peers don’t see someone who looks like them in positions of influence. Without AAPI representation, our history isn’t accurately told and thus lost in narratives that are dictated by non-AAPIs. I liked the responses of FJCH EVP Sevilleja and JCI Deputy National President Martin to other questions that can apply to overcoming the barrier of lacking AAPI representation: speak truth to power (call out instances of inaccuracies in, and advocate for, the experiences of AAPIs), work hard to stand on the merit of your identity and qualifications, and surround yourself with people you want to be like so that the collective AAPI community can move upward and forward.
The panel discussion was rounded out by HCJ Director Pacupac’s Pearl City High School students asking a question about balancing leadership with work or school priorities. Representative Jackson said what I, as a 30-something working mom, even needed to hear: don’t be afraid to make mistakes in order to grow, and learn how to deal with stress. Mistakes can be daunting, especially the older we become, because they can be extremely costly or high-stakes. Risk and uncertainty are things we try to avoid in favor of reliability and security, especially when spouses and children enter the picture. However, mistakes made in the pursuit of excellence are unavoidable and are often the breakthrough needed to get to where we want to be. Instead of being afraid of them, we should comfortably anticipate mistakes so that they’re less burdensome and more of learning moments. Mistakes are what we make of them, so reframe them as necessary components of our personal and professional journeys. Advancing ourselves, especially from mistakes, can be stressful. To be successful, extra effort must be made to stand out and qualify for opportunities. However, if we don’t find healthy outlets for ourselves to rejuvenate, then how, as Representative Jackson asked, can we handle situations if we can’t handle ourselves? We need to prioritize stress coping mechanisms to show ourselves love, to effectively be there for others, and to normalize the fact that a healthy balance is what makes great things possible.
This recap is only a snippet of what was shared during the May 2022 GMM panel discussion, if you can believe it. I hope this inspires readers to get more involved in the world of Jaycees, because opportunities abound to be influenced by incredibly accomplished people who want to pull others up with them. GMMs are the easiest way to start diving in, so we hope to see new and old faces in the coming months… because you never know how much your life can change as a Jaycee.
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