The Japanese American Citizens League-Pacific Southwest District successfully concluded its second year of the Collegiate Japanese American Internship (CJAI) program in December.
This youth program, which provided college students with hands-on experience working in a pan-Asian community-based organization, was fully funded and made possible by JACL-PSW’s long-time partner, Southern California Edison.
Southern California Edison’s commitment to education and community presented a valuable opportunity for JACL-PSW to expand its youth programs beyond the Little Tokyo and Japanese American spheres. This year, interns were placed in three different Asian Pacific Islander (API) community-based organizations throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties, increasing the reach to as far as Garden Grove.
Interns engaged directly with the API community in their respective regions, learning relevant advocacy and public policy issues along the way. This year, partnering organizations were Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), Asian Pacific Islanders California Action Network (APIsCAN), and Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA).
In addition their projects in their assigned organizations, interns also attended leadership-training retreats once a month. Each retreat brought in individuals from the community, including a Southern California Edison representative, Thanos Trezos, who provided practical interview and resume-building information.
Furthermore, the interns applied their leadership skills and challenged themselves in the planning and executing of a one-day college conference on API advocacy and activism. This conference brought together students from UC Irvine to Claremont Colleges to CSU Northridge, and helped form intercollegiate coalitions among the youth.
In the upcoming years, JACL-PSW hopes to continue expanding this program, which provides an invaluable experience for college students to apply the theory they learn in their respective classrooms into practice as they engage with real-life situations in the API community. Southern California Edison will continue to help expand and move the program forward.