Between July 21st and 23rd Santa Clara hosted the first-ever — National Public Service Internship Conference. Organized by the non-profit association CLUSA (Civic Leadership USA), the focus of the conference is to cultivate future leaders from the underrepresented ethnic communities.
The issue of underrepresentation
Unfortunately, underrepresentation is nothing new. The Asian American community represents over 5.6% of the population of the United States (or over 20 million people).Asian Americans are estimated to become the nation’s largest immigrant group by 2055. However, the community is underrepresented in both the Senate and Congress. For reference, in the Senate, Asian Americans make only 3% of representatives. In Congress, the percentage drops even more significantly. Only 14 out of 435 congressmen are Asian Americans (0.03%).
In his opening speech at the National Public Service Internship Conference, Mr. Sandy Chau, the founder of CLUSA, reiterated how important it is to have young Asian Americans participate in civic life as well as the political process.Future leaders must become visible today and participate in all forms of local and state governments. It is the only way to give voice to the underrepresented communities and implement changes that will benefit all. Likewise, it is necessary to break the perpetual foreigner stereotype.
Ms. Lily Mei, the Mayor of Freemont, shared her experience of growing up as an Asian American in her hometown of Pennsylvania. Ms. Mei endured discrimination and abuse. As horrible as those experiences were, Ms. Mei sharedthey made her a better and more emphatic leader.In her position as the Mayor, she strives to make sure people from different ethnic backgrounds are welcomed and embraced in the community.
The structure of the National Public Service Internship Conference
Several workshops were held over two days. They were divided into workshops for non-profit executives and workshops for students.
Over 50 participants from different parts of the United States took part in the non-profit executives’ workshops.In their work-life, theyare all responsible for organizing internship placements in the public sector. The workshops focused on practical topics - from how to set up a well-organized internship program to how to pick the most suitable candidate for the internship.
At the same time, over 50 students from all over the United States participated in the workshops for students. The guest speakers were staff members of elected government officials, who gave students actionable and practical advice. It included tips on a variety of topics – from how to successfully prepare for an interview to how to show initiative once the student becomes an intern.
The feedback from participants
Both workshops proved to be a source of inspiration and practical tips for the participants. Non-profit executives expressed enthusiasm over cooperating with their counterparts from all over the country. Students, on the other hand, offered a deeper insight into what the conference meant to them. Many expressed how the workshop educated them on how to work together for the benefit of the community, to be proud of their heritage, and how to help those that cannot help themselves.
CLUSA is the brainchild of Mr. Sandy Chau, an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist, and a philanthropist. Founded in 2013 in San Mateo, CLUSA’s motto is “Diverse in Leadership. Inclusive in Participation.” The main activity of CLUSA is forums that educate and train young Asian Americans on how to participate in the civic process. CLUSA held over 39 Leadership Forums in 27 cities and 13 states. CLUSA’s vision is to create a network of civic-minded organizations and unite Asian American communities all over the United States with a sense of collective purpose.
At the moment, CLUSA sponsors 28 public service internship programs across the country and hopes to add eight more shortly. The National Public Service Internship Conference was the next step in the process. It is a way to bring together young people interested in the civic process with executives from non-profits and staff members from the elected officials’ offices. CLUSA plans to turn the conference into an annual event.
As a way of social investment and strategic partnership, CLUSA offers three types of grants. These include Local Student Internship Grant, Civic Leadership Forum Grant, and Capacity Building Grant. To learn more about the types of grants and how to apply, check out the CLUSA Programs page.
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