Organization Connects Students to Culture and Politics

Shravani Page | Staff Writer

Seniors Andy Gao (left) and Kevin Tang (right) both believe in the importance of political activism

Members of William Mason High School are poised to create a difference in the communities and encourage teenagers to become involved politically.

William Mason High School has become a hub composed of differing ideologies. From discussing controversies to conspiracies, politics have unsurprisingly entered the mix which has led to a recent influx of political organizations blooming in Mason.

Seniors Andy Gao (bottom, second from left) and Kevin Tang (bottom, third from left) at the APAPA Youth Intern graduation. The APAPA aims to empower Asian American and Pacific Islander youth to take political action in their communities.

APAPA (Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose goal is to empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It offers opportunities for high school students to become involved in their communities and encourages youth involvement in politics. Senior Andy Gao looked outside of school to find opportunities to get involved in the politics of his community.

“I think culture is a big part of getting involved,” Gao said. “ I think Asian parents, in general, aren’t really aware of the opportunities that are available to the kids, so kids don’t go seeking these opportunities too often. Organizations like APAPA really allow Asian American children to get more involved and become more involved.”

Gao puts emphasis on the idea that once we see what we have learned in school is applied in the real world, it becomes easier to determine which side we support.

“There’s only so much school can do for you,” Gao said. “Once you actually see what you’re learning is applied in the real world, that’s when you know you can come full circle and then everything starts to make sense.”

When it comes to high school student engagement in politics, senior Kevin Tang believes that while not necessarily required, it should be highly encouraged to be in the know.  

“It’s never a bad thing to be informed about what’s going on in the world,” Tang said. “I know lots of times that politics, especially today, can be very polarizing. But it’s important to be able to know where you stand on certain issues.”

The Ohio Chapter of APAPA has also managed to bring in politicians such as former congressional candidate Aftab Pureval and presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Gao believes that bringing in multiple perspectives is important along with hearing all sides of an issue.

“We bring in influential politicians from all over the spectrum,” Gao said. “For example, last year, we brought in Representative Steve Chabot. This gives an opportunity for people to say their opinions on important issues. It’s really a way to keep the masses informed.”

Access to direct information can lead to new opportunities for students as well. For example, Tang got the opportunity to intern for Ohio House Representative Sedrick Denson this summer through APAPA.

“Getting involved in organizations, both in and out of school, helps you,” Tang said. “[APAPA] helps you meet different people, form bonds, and helps with networking as well. I learned a lot and got to work with some really cool people, both up at the State House and down here in Cincinnati.”

Moving forward, Tang and Gao both agree that there are numerous opportunities outside of school when it comes to becoming more involved. 

“[APAPA] is a really good starting point when it comes to the political realm,” Gao said. “Attending events like town halls and city council meetings is really a stepping stone when it comes to getting involved.”

Politics is something today that initially seems like a topic consumed over and over by the media. Although the political realm may be seen as being further away from the town of Mason, it is currently growing and thriving here locally.

“Politics is really more local than you think,” Tang said. “Those people you admired and liked, even on the local level, have the ability to make some of the greatest impacts in your community and in your life.” 

Photos by Shravani Page.

Group photo contributed by Andy Gao.