The third annual Colorado Asian American Leadership Conference took place on Saturday, March 24 at the Aurora Public Schools Learning Center. The conference united Colorado high school students of diverse backgrounds, with a focus on Asian Americans, to address the cultural and societal issues within the community.

The theme of the conference was self-realization, acceptance, and self-empowerment: [I]ndividual [D]iscovery. Fendi Chung, a senior at Smoky Hill High School, and Feyone La, a senior at Rangeview High School, opened the conference as the Co-Presidents of Next Generation Voices. Keynote speaker Joanne Liu, Assistant Principal at West Denver  Preparatory Charter School-Harvey Park Campus, spoke during the opening ceremony by encouraging students to empower themselves. Liu shared personal accounts of growing up as an Asian American. Through empowerment was how she was able to find her identity.

The students then divided into workshops focusing on topics such as individuality, art, dance, sports and volunteerism. The workshops targeted identity struggles and how other successful minorities have overcome racial challenges.

The day concluded with an entertainment section with several performances including dance, spoken word, singing and a “drumoff” between two talented drummers, Aaron Daniels and Jacob Brooks. A closing video showing Asian American issues wrapped up the event, leaving students with a message that they can make a difference and influence change.

The goal of the conference was to evoke an appreciation for the value of self-identification in order to empower future leaders. The NGV executive committee felt it was important for young minorities to embrace their identity. The conference took participants through a journey of passion and self-discovery. The first set of workshops plans to teach students different methods of self-expression. [I]ndividual [D]iscovery is hosted by Next Generation Voices, a non-profit organization established in February 2008 that is operated by Colorado students.

Although originally aimed towards Asian Americans, NGV is currently in the process of broadening its reach to incorporate all ethnic diversity. In order to integrate young leaders into society, the organization promote cultural awareness, acceptance, and activism. NGV programs events to give mainstream society a more complete picture of the world. As a voice for the next generation, NGV has high hopes to bridge the schism found among the various cultures we represent. The organization is currently recruiting for Asian American high school students to join the executive committee.

For more information, please find Next Generation Voices on Facebook.