Despite the many clubs and organizations at Redmond High School (RHS), including a number of cultural clubs, one group of students still felt there was still something missing in the school’s repertoire.
This prompted the teens to form the Asian Student Association (ASA).
The idea to start the club came to co-president Andy Yu when he arrived at RHS last year as a sophomore. He was looking for clubs to join and saw there was a Black Student Union and Latinos Unidos club. Yu wanted a similar organization for Asian students so he began researching online, looking at colleges and their clubs’ constitutions to begin constructing one for the ASA, which would not start up until a year later.
After receiving the principal’s approval, Yu presented the idea at a student council meeting last year, bringing in Tian Kisch, who is the ASA’s other co-president.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Kisch said.
Kish was a junior at the time and would be spending her summer studying abroad in Shanghai. She said when she returned this year as a senior, she knew she would want an outlet to share her experiences and felt the ASA would be that outlet. Kisch added that while there are a significant number of students of Asian descent at RHS, they did not have any formal organization representing them within the school.
Once she became involved, Kisch approached junior Paul DeWater about joining the club as well. Both Kisch and DeWater are adopted — she is Chinese and he is Korean — and both students felt being a part of ASA would help them connect with their heritage.
DeWater’s only other contact with his roots is at a camp during the summer, so joining the ASA has been especially significant.
“I thought it was a good way to get in touch with (my heritage),” said DeWater, who is the club’s vice president. “To be part of (ASA) is really powerful for me.”
OPEN TO ALL
Despite the name, the club is open to students of all backgrounds and according to the club’s constitution, one of the purposes of the ASA is to be educational and develop awareness of Asian cultures among members and RHS students. For example, members hope to hold events such as food and fashion nights to expose people to the cuisines of different ethnic cultures.
ASA adviser Rich Wharf, who teaches criminal justice and sociology at RHS, said since the club started at the beginning of the year, he has personally learned a lot about the different cultures just by sitting in on the meetings.
Wharf was one of several faculty and staff members Yu contacted during his two to three month-long search for a club adviser. Wharf did not have any other advising commitments, so he agreed. He said he also believed in the club’s mission.
“I thought all students should be represented,” he said. “I’ll do whatever they need. They’re really dedicated to (ASA) and they want it to work.”
PLENTY OF PURPOSE
Wharf added that students also need a place to connect with each other, which is another reason he has opened his classroom to the club.
“It’s easy to get lost at Redmond High School,” he said.
This social networking is another club purpose. According to its constitution, the club will provide the opportunity for “ASA members and all other interested students to interact, in the hopes of furthering an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect among all students and teachers at RHS.” This mutual understanding and respect of others expands in the club’s third purpose of being a service organization and encouraging members to be more socially aware and responsive to the needs of others.
ASA’s final purpose is to act as an umbrella organization for other Asian cultural groups that may form on the RHS campus. In addition to providing support and pooling their student resources together, ASA would also help provide funds for these groups.
But as this is its first year, ASA does not receive money from the school. DeWater said the club has to run for an entire year before receiving funding. As a result, one of the club’s focuses for this year is fundraising, whether that means selling food at school events or reaching out to local businesses for sponsors.
WORKING ON GROWTH
Yu said they also want to work with the school’s other cultural clubs to organize one big event.
Kisch said such an event would give them access to funding through the other clubs, which have been established at RHS for more than one year. However, she said they would still plan on fundraising to help contribute.
As a new club, ASA is in a Catch-22 situation where their active membership is still low, but this low membership in addition to their lack of funds limits how much advertising they can do.
And while the numbers at the club’s biweekly meetings are mostly composed of the club’s officers, they are not discouraged.
The student body at RHS has responded to the club and Wharf said students often stop by his room, inquiring about ASA. DeWater said one reason their attendance is low can be credited to the day their meetings are held. Tuesday is a big meeting day for several school groups and people have to pick and choose.
Yu said they have been able to set up booths and attend a few school events to recruit members. As a result, ASA’s contact list of potential members is more than 100 students. He and the rest of officers take this as a positive sign to continue.
“Just because a situation is hard doesn’t mean you should give up,” he said.
For more information about the ASA, visit the club’s Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.