In a recent conversation with Adam Chong, I was excited to hear about some of the impressive and meaningful work he was able to find upon his return to Los Angeles. I asked Adam to tell us a bit about his position and responsibilities, and here’s what he had to say.
Hey everyone! Since graduating this past May I have been back home in Southern California working as the Program Coordinator for the Korean American Coalition-Los Angeles (KAC). KAC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1983 to promote the civic interests and civil rights of the Korean American community through education, community organization, leadership development, and coalition-building with diverse communities. As Program Coordinator I am responsible for developing,updating, and improving project plans for various KAC programs!
Post-graduation I was experiencing the typical post-college graduate pressures of getting a job, but I knew I didn’t want to rush into something I wasn’t interested in or passionate about. It took an entire summer full of cover letters and interviews to finally come across KAC on Idealist, a job search engine for careers with a social impact.
Fast forward eight months and I have learned so much about myself, the community we serve, and the work we do as a nonprofit. One program that has been near and dear to my heart is our Model United Nations (MUN) program. KAC MUN is a program intended to give inner-city youth insight into the world at large. Students act as delegates from different United Nations member states and compete at simulated UN conferences. At these conferences, students discuss, analyze, and solve international issues, ranging from North Korea’s nuclear proliferation to providing children in developing nations with access to healthcare and education.
I recently took my students to the Berkeley Model United Nations Conference earlier this month — an international MUN conference that is one of the largest in the world. I would say teaching MUN is my favorite part of what I do at KAC. Having the privilege to guide and witness a student’s individual growth is an extremely rewarding experience. For example, I’ve had very shy students who had trouble participating in class, but through the MUN, I’ve been able to see those same students deliver speeches in front of a 200-person audience!
Another project I took on early in the job was organizing a grassroots community meeting for the Vote Center Placement Project (VCPP), a project that’s introducing a new voting model that allows voters to cast a ballot at any vote center location within Los Angeles County over an 11-day period. Not only was KAC able to educate members of the community regarding these massive changes in the voting system, but also allowed them to give their own input as to where the County should identify and place vote centers here in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Check out this article by The Korea Times regarding our meeting and the voting system changes!
There are many valuable lessons I have learned in my studies in the SOAN department, and much of what I learned there helped prepare me for what I’m doing now. A specific class that sticks out to me was the Ethnographic Methods class I took in the Fall of 2015. In that course, I conducted an independent research project on Korean American business owners in the greater Tacoma area. I chose this topic because it hit close to home: both of my grandparents were small-business owners when they first immigrated to Los Angeles in the late 70’s, and I wanted to know if the Korean-Americans in Tacoma shared similar experiences to those of my family. That class was a very eye-opening experience for me! It was the first time in a classroom setting where I was given creative freedom to really decide the issues and topics I was interested in and that I wanted to explore. Not only did the outcome of my project give me insight into my own cultural identity and Korean-Americanness, it also taught me valuable ethnographic techniques that I now teach my MUN students in our community advocacy project!
Every year after the MUN competitive season ends, as a class we engage in a community advocacy project. As I was crafting lesson plans a few weeks ago, I immediately thought of the ethnographic project I completed my sophomore year and the similarities that I see in our current community advocacy project. For the past few weeks I have been introducing my students to topics and methods like “participant observation,” and I’ve had them interview both family members and friends using the “semi-structured interview guide” they developed. We are still in the beginning stages of this project, but I hope that it proves to be the transformative experience that I envision for them. I hope my students gain valuable insight into their cultural identity and Korean-Americanness through this community advocacy project, just as my project in SOAN 299: Ethnographic Methods did for me.
So, those are just a few highlights from my work at the Korean American Coalition. Peace everyone!
Adam, thanks so much for sharing this fascinating portrait of your work, and we definitely hope to hear more in the coming year about how your work with KAC evolves. Good luck in the coming months, and please stay in touch!