(Washington, DC) – On Saturday, March 17, 2012, the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (OAPIA) hosted its first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Youth Town Hall at the Chinatown Community Cultural Center. Over 75 youth and young adults discussed issues facing AAPI youth directly with Mayor Vincent C. Gray. This Youth Town Hall was the first of its kind to specifically address the needs of AAPI youth.
The AAPI Youth Town Hall was open to the public, but allowed AAPI students and young people to openly discuss issues that concern them. Top concerns touched upon language access challenges and language-based discrimination in schools.
"This was a really good chance for people, who might not otherwise be heard, to voice their concerns," said Ruby Simon, one of the youth in attendance.
The youth had cited issues where they were placed in lower level classes due to misperceptions on their English language ability. This was a common concern for AAPI youth where English speaking ability was used as an inaccurate gauge of student skills and abilities in other subjects as well.
Additionally, with many AAPI youth being the children of recent immigrant parents, the youth are often burdened with interpreting and communicating on behalf of parents typically on household matters for adults. The youth in attendance had proposed that more support for structured English courses be provided for immigrant parents.
Mayor Gray assured the youth that their voices were being heard and that their input provided valuable insight towards addressing the needs of the AAPI community.
"This kind of dialogue and engagement with the AAPI community and youth is very important,” said Mayor Gray. "We need to be more inclusive and understand the needs of each community if we are to become one city."
"The issues facing the youth are often tied with other key issues facing the community," said OAPIA Director Soohyun "Julie" Koo. "Mayor Gray’s participation in today’s event is a reassuring indication of his commitment to the AAPI community."