By: Allison Riley, Asian Avenue magazine intern

College is both a time of self-development and a time to embrace cultural identities. For Aaron Porras, 21, a mechanical engineering student at University of Colorado at Boulder, college-level Asian Pacific American (APA) organizations have stimulated his growth as a leader.

Porras got involved during his sophomore year, but was not always acquainted with the APA community. As one of the few Filipino Americans in his elementary school, he recalls unique challenges.

“My first questions about my cultural identity arose when we were taking the CSAP,” said Porras. “At the time, I never had to fill out anything regarding my race, so I asked my friend next to me what to put down. ‘My mom thinks you are black,’ he said.”

“I had no better answer so I put down what he told me,” said Porras. At this moment, Porras realized how he differed from other students.

Porras believes APA youth need to learn about culture and history as something worthy of celebration.

“Kids need some kind of community to turn to,” he said. “This is something that I lacked growing up and I feel it would have been very beneficial.”

To create these communities, Porras calls for more youth-centered APA organizations. “It would be nice to see organizations similar to the ones you see in college, such as Asian Unity or Vietnamese Student Association, at the high school level and younger,” he said.

Porras was last year’s president of Pi Delta Psi, or PDPsi, the only Asian-interest cultural fraternity in Colorado. Nicknamed “Hammerdown” by his fraternity brothers, he is one to get things done. The mission of Pi Delta Psi Fraternity, Inc. is to instill values that nurture and perpetuate the continual growth and development of the individual through academic achievement, cultural awareness, righteousness, friendship and loyalty while fostering ethical behavior, leadership, and philanthropy. Pi Delta Psi was founded in 1994 on these principles to help promote Asian awareness.

In addition to PDPsi, Porras also serves as co-president of CU-Boulder’s Asian Unity, or AU. He said that AU has strong social traits, but he wants members to be more informed about Asian American issues. “Hopefully we can develop the activist side of AU, while maintain a positive social side,” he said. AU’s retreat in September featured workshops focused on cultural identity and activism.

In the future, Porras sees himself working with non-profit organizations focused on Asian American issues. Perhaps the community Porras envisions will be something he helps develop.

Aaron Porras, 21, third from left, is the former president of CU Boulder’s Asian-interest fraternity Pi Delta Psi.