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“To All The Generations That Have Immigrated Before” by Franz Sandil

Every story begins with a love story, but like in every plot there is some tension that is bound to arise. Ever since immigrating to the United States since I was 7, I had this constant conflict in my mind. Over the years I always wondered, was I actually feeling love, or a false sense of obligation that I would or should soon forget. This strain is not about my love towards someone per se, but with my past. It is about my appreciation and devotion to the upbringings that made me for who I am. It is about being a person of Filipino identity trying to find a place and make a footprint in this world. I was constantly trying to figure out the how’s and why’s. I would question if there was a way that I could leverage my background to help me become the best version of myself, growing a relationship with my past that would help me develop personally and professionally in the future. After living in the states for 9 years as a first-generation immigrant and soon graduating at Georgetown University, I found out that it was communities, that served as a catalyst for those answers. Together with leadership within those communities, I would find connections, tracks, and paths among others who became the firsts and succeeded in bridging their identities from their past and to their future.

To my fellow first, second, third, and etc. gens, our background and our identities should not hinder us back from moving forward but rather be able to help us cultivate, grow, and support ourselves and one another. By forming communities, spaces are created to find associations that would project us to create meaningful connections among one another. In the following letters I will tell my immigration story through conflicts, finding opportunities, and strive to find leadership through a community.

Dear those who are skeptical about the role of minority and cultural communities,

Immigrating from the Philippines, among the first in my family, there are fears that accompany it. Coming from a foreign country, it starts with us, the firsts. As someone who may not have much knowledge or experience beginning a life at a new place or country, there are many uncertainties and it can be difficult to adjust. Coming to the states, it was just me and my immediate family. There wasn’t a code book of a 101 how to move to the U.S. My parents and I had to figure it all out by ourselves. We were lucky enough to have some family who would give us tips and advice on where to go and what to do. But by being the first, while a challenge, gives an opportunity to gain experience and knowledge, whether it be in various facets in life or navigating on how to live in a new place.

Along with new expertise or connections, one can become a leader and find a community. A leader can help find others who have travelled along the same path and connect. Once a group is found, communities are formed. The National Federation of Filipino American Associations is an example of a community that was built by immigrants or whom specifically identifies as Filipino. With more than 50 years of its existence, it has become the bearer for promoting the welfare and well-being of the four million Filipinos and Filipino Americans throughout the United States. Spanning over thirteen-member regions that cover the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands, it creates a community that is culturally, economically, and politically empowered and engaged. Lead by a diverse group of trailblazers the organization promotes the welfare and well-being of Filipino Americans throughout the United States, amplifying their voices, advocating on behalf of their interests, and providing resources to facilitate their empowerment. It is critical to create communities that have leaders among minority groups as they serve as a leading light, showing on where we could go and proving it is achievable. Communities create a place that will serve as advocates and catalyze growth.

Dear those who ignore the youth,

Once leaders are created, organizations formed, the most essential element to include next is the youth. For any organization the most important aspect in planning is retention and recruitment. A key piece is the young generation or the youth and including them to any programing. Doing so, ensures continued interest and sustainability. It challenges, any organization to continue updating topics and remaining relevant. For me, I was able to find the Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration (EPYC) program, run by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). In this program, it recruits ambassadors from different region all throughout the United States, to serve as a bridge for their local communities to a national level. They engage fellow young Filipino Americans through events and participating in conferences, writing blogs and leveraging social media. As ambassadors we are also focused around the areas leadership development, civic engagement, and advocacy. We also attend monthly webinars to help develop our knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Overall through programs like as this, it ensures that the knowledge and experience of the past is built upon and improved, ensuring not only sustainability, but future growth. The youth is the bridge of the old generation to the new and transforms a community that brings people together to a community invests and creates change.

Dear those who want organizations to flourish,

It all becomes a ripple effect, once organizations are established and youth programs are set, it paves the way for future generations and beyond. Once the pillars and foundations are set, the only way to move forward is to continue with innovation and constantly challenging ourselves despite the risks. By having communities, they become a support network to help an individual succeed personally. A part of the EPYC program is a capstone project, in which ambassadors tackles a problem that addresses an issue within their perspective communities. The self driven projects challenges the youth to be engaged in their local communities or organizations and to become a leader. The projects will not only serve as inspiration for themselves but to the rest of the youth within their communities. By being under the umbrella of NaFFA, the organizations and community’s resources are at their disposal. But through initiatives such as this displays the investment of the organization in the creation of different solutions that members of the community may have been longing an answer for. Finding the issues and problem-solving through projects are among the various way that communities can innovate that would help lead to growth. Communities are never truly complete and always calls for more members and constant change to remain to continue creating impact.

Back to the love story. It seems to be a tug of war with my identity and whether it is worth keeping or letting go. However, through my experiences I was able to learn and find purpose within communities that I have found. For immigrants such as myself or for those who continue to question on what it mean to have a different identity or background, communities become a way to find the answers and forms avenues of creating action. As the world becomes more and more globalized and people are given more ability to move to different areas and find opportunities, support systems become more and more critical. The systems and communities that focus on background and identity are vital because for the sheer nature of immigration and movements, it becomes a transition from the past to the present and future.