Graduating from Forward Together (kind of)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

By Priscilla Hoang

One of our amazing interns reflects on her time at Forward Together. We are so grateful for her presence in our office and know she is on to phenomenal things!

Ice cream party
I can almost hear the graduation songs playing.  I can hear the families cheering and unknowingly participating in the “Who Can Cheer for Their Graduating Kid the Loudest” competition. I am antsy, and the dim lighting makes me tired. But the grin on my face wouldn't go down if I begged a plastic surgeon to operate on me, not that I ever would. As I sit in my metal folding chair, I smile at the seniors making their way down the aisle to receive their diplomas.

That will be me soon. But as my junior year has wrapped up, that also means that my last day here as an intern at Forward Together has arrived.

So you could take this blog post as a graduation speech of some sort. I don’t have a cap to throw in the air, but I did get an ice cream party, which is good enough for me. I first started this internship unsure of what I wanted from it. Well, I definitely didn't want to fail my school’s internship course, and it was already the middle of the school year. I approached Forward Together's Youth Organizing Manager, Amanda Wake. She agreed to be my mentor and took me on as an intern.

My time at Forward Together has not only taught me about running an organization and the steps behind a campaign, but it has also been a vital factor this year in developing myself as a leader. I found that the work we did with sex education and Asian American youth were things that really resonated with me. I finally began to understand my family dynamics, and where I fit into this whole hierarchy as a young, Asian American woman living in Oakland. As our Sex Education Justice campaign commenced, I worked with other youth around Oakland and networked with a lot of awesome people. I connected with people that I thought I never would. I began to have a bigger awareness of my surroundings and held myself with power, thanks to my new found knowledge of Forward Stance.

Amanda has exemplified the definition of a mentor to me. She is organized, efficient, down to earth, and shows so much passion for what she does. I remember when we first had a one on one conversation about what was going on with my life. I found that the guarded persona in me just didn't want to keep everything inside anymore. I confided to her things that I seldom told anyone, and to my surprise, she didn't raise an eyebrow or try to further analyze my words. It was one of the few times that someone just listened, nodded, connected with what I was saying, and offered input that would be beneficial to me.

So not only did Amanda become a great mentor who would later push me to join this blog team and work on the sexuality education justice campaign, she also became a friend. She was an adult ally whose presence didn't make me feel like I had sit idly by and absorb their bullshit. And while sometimes the workload seemed a little much, I would think about what this place has done for me and why I was doing it.

What started off as a slightly begrudging start to an internship became a really important journey in my growth as person. You could say that’s a stretch. I swear, it’s not, unless you count all the times I ran up the stairs trying to be here right at 11:30. I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for this organization and this internship. So, thank you, Forward Together, for doing all the amazing work that revitalizes the organizing spirit in hundreds and thousands of people just like me.

P.S. If you are part of an organization or business in the Bay Area and would like to change an intern's life like mines, please check out MetWest High School's internship program. Learn more about our Learning Through Internships program here or apply to be a mentor here

P.P.S. If you didn’t know already, I was also part of the CORE youth organizing group. This video I made has a more in depth explanation of what our Sex Education Justice campaign is about. Check it out!