June was an EXTREMELY busy month for me. Between Tahitian competition practices, online summer classes, the pageant, work trips and more, one of the key moments of the entire month was attending APPEAL's SPARC Leadership Program.
One of the leaders in the PI San Diego community, Uncle Tana Lepule, sent me an email one day asking if I would apply to become a SPARC Fellow and attend this event. I had absolutely no idea what it was and I almost turned down the invitation because of how busy that entire week was. The last day of the conference was also the day of our Kaleo preshow! I told him my scheduling situation and he and the director made an exception for me to leave early. Welp, I couldn't turn down the offer then.
In preparation for the event, I did some trivial research about the program and the organization (of course you can find it in the resources tab). SPARC Leadership Program is an year-long program that increases AANHPI awareness and engagement in tobacco control advocacy. It brings together young adults and community leaders from across California. SPARC is funded by APPEAL (Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy, and Leadership) which is a health justice organization that aims to gain health equality for AANHPI and other under served communities. That was about all I knew before attending the event.
The first few minutes were of course awkward since I didn't really know anyone (and of course I was the first person there). But as time passed Uncle Tana's daughter, Leiana, walked in. I knew someone! And Leiana and I have grown up in the same circle of people so it was an added benefit. Throughout the day we participated in group activities and learned the basics of the tobacco issues in AANHPI communities and leadership. We concluded the day by going to a Thai restaurant for dinner and then I had to zoom off to practice.
The second day was very similar but the activities were more intimate and everyone felt comfortable with each other. It was probably my favorite day because we were able to bond with our small groups and understood the issues that we all face on a much deeper level. I think this day sparked a new drive in everyone to continue down their paths of leadership and reminded us of why we decided to become advocates for the AANHPI community in the first place. It was hard for me to leave that day and drag myself to practice because I wanted to continue the conversations.
On the last day, I only stayed half the time because of the preshow, but I left on a strong note. As part of our final training, we had to participate in a role play activity where are small groups had to propose a policy to the appropriate board. This policy is essentially what we will be working on over the course of the next 10 months. My group, the I.S.L.A.N.D group, is proposing to implement a smoke and tobacco free policy on all community college campuses in CA. We killed it. I started off with the strong intro and then my team came in with all the facts and appeal to emotion. It was a great way to end my experience for the summit.
I look forward to working with my group over the next few months. I truly believe that we can make an impact on at least one community college campus and that we could start a chain reaction across the state. I'm sure I will share more updates as we continue working on this project!
Since I was a little girl, writing was always my go- to way of expressing myself and escaping from the rest of the world.