My name is Susan Cuong and I am an alumni of ACRJ's youth organizing program, SAFIRE. I was born and raised in Oakland and graduated from Oakland High School in 2009. I will be turning 20 years old in November and I am currently a third-year Psychology major and a Korean minor at UC Berkeley (GO BEARS!). I can't believe that I'm already half-way through with my college years...
I've come a long way since high school and I definitely would not be the person I am now without having been part of the SAFIRE youth program in high school. I first joined SAFIRE during the summer of my Sophomore year which was summer of... 2010? I think that I first heard about the program from Catherine when she was passing out flyers in the school commons, trying to get girls to join the summer program. At first I didn't know what to expect but after an amazing summer filled with great company, volleyball, and a new insight on reproductive justice and gender empowerment, I was sold. From then on, I loved the program so much that I just kept coming back.
Not only did SAFIRE help young girls raise awareness on issues involving racial and gender inequality, but SAFIRE also taught us to fight for the rights that we deserve and that we are all beautiful and strong in our own way -- even if that means being "different" than what our families, or society, expects of us. SAFIRE has empowered me to strive for the best, fight for what is important to me, and also to give back to the community. Although I'm not sure which career I want to go into, I know that I want to help others and continue to make a change in my community. Whether that includes volunteering, counseling, or doing research, I hope to contribute by raising awareness on such issues and hopefully striving for better policies to stop discrimination and inequality.
Attending the summer celebration in August and seeing all the new youth involved in SAFIRE made me realize the tremendous progress that the program has made. I was also able to see how big of an impact SAFIRE has on those who are in the program as well as those who are a part of the community. I felt honored to stand on stage and be recognized as part of the SAFIRE Alumni Network because it shows that members of SAFIRE and ACRJ genuinely care about the people that have been a part of the program. I am looking forward to seeing the power of SAFIRE and ACRJ spread because they truly deserve to be acknowledged for all the wonderful work that they do. Every time I am exposed to issues involving inequality or injustice, it just brings me back to my SAFIRE days and mindset. I would like to thank SAFIRE and the staff of ACRJ for all the amazing opportunities that they have offered and will continue to offer to youth in the community. And I will give all my support to SAFIRE in hopes that the youth in the program will be able to "be the change that they want to see in the world."