ASCC PTK vice president completes DC Internship
American Samoa Community College (ASCC) student Miss Vaimalu Vaiau, 24, who currently serves as Vice President of the ASCC Alpha Epsilon Mu chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, spent 10 weeks over the summer in the nation’s capital as an intern with the organization Asian American Pacific Advocates (AAPA, also formerly known as the Organization of Chinese Americans or OCA).
“When people inquire as to how my internship went, I say ‘amazing,’” reflected Miss Vaiau, “but that word alone is not adequate enough to describe my 10-week experience.”
In Washington, DC, Miss Vaiau joined over 20 fellow interns chosen from across America and its territories, who were placed with various partnering organizations by the AAPA.
“At my internship placement, NATIONAL CAPACD (National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development), I worked on a series of projects and tasks,” she recalled, “from updating the membership roster to facilitating meetings, conducting webinars, and coordinating events.
“Thanks to the classes I took at ASCC, I was adequately prepared for these assignments. They helped me a lot in various areas, such as creating a fact sheet on American Samoa for National CAPACD and its members, creating efficient and easy to read documents, writing letters, crafting effective power point presentations, and organizing data onto spreadsheets.”
Miss Vaiau and her fellow interns were also allowed and encouraged to attend various events to build their networks and establish professional relationships.
“There were many highlights of my internship,” she recalled. “One of them was being able to attend the Asian * Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund Higher Education Summit (APIASF) as an AANAPISI (Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution) scholar. I reached out to the other American Samoan Intern from ASCC, Liu Lafaele, and invited him to attend the summit with me where we connected with the ASCC Dean of Student Services Dr. Emilia Le’i, who was also attending the summit. We were able to network with the various panelists in attendance along with several other leaders in the Pacific Islander community such as the Chief Operating Officer of EPIC (Empowering Pacific Islander Communities), Alisi Tulua.”
Another highlight was Advocacy Day in which the interns were split up into groups with the objective of choosing an issue they felt was important enough to advocate for on Capitol Hill.
“Our group chose to advocate for Data Disaggregation,” said Miss Vaiau. “We went on Capitol Hill and met with Honorable Congressman Pete Aguilar of California’s 31st Congressional district and asked him to help push for data disaggregation in schools among the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) communities in his district.”
On another occasion, the AAPA interns made the four-hour trip to Jersey City, New Jersey for the annual OCA National Convention.
“During the convention, there was a youth recognition luncheon in which the interns were called to the stage individually, announcing our name, home state, and school,” Miss Vaiau recalled, “and when people heard I was from American Samoa, they expressed their strong approval at seeing a Pacific Islander being part of the intern program. At the awards gala, I networked with Judge Michael Kwan from Utah who came to American Samoa last October to talk about citizenship rights.”
Effective networking also led to Miss Vaiau receiving an invitation to the welcoming ceremony for the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, and his wife Mrs. Lee Hsien Loong hosted by the President and First Lady held on the South lawn of the White House.
“It was a short ceremony,” said Miss Vaiau, “but to be able to witness Obama speak so eloquently and to see the beautiful Michelle in real time was absolutely surreal.”
Miss Vaiau’s 10 weeks in Washington DC have inspired her to involve more of her peers in experiencing how government at its highest level works.
“What I have learned, I will share with my peers, and help pave the way for more American Samoan students to apply for internships in our nation’s capital,” she said.
She also gained a perspective on her generation’s involvement with politics.
“In our culture, the opinion of millennial is often swept under the rug,” she reflected. “If or when we try to voice our opinions and concerns, we are either considered to be ‘too progressive,’ or ‘too American.’ I want to bridge the gap between generations, and push for more transparency between our leaders and constituents."
The PTK Vice President, a Liberal Arts major with an emphasis in Political Science who also served as President of the Student Government Association from fall 2015 through spring 2016, expressed her gratitude to the staff and faculty at ASCC for providing the necessary resources in helping facilitate her internship, especially Dean of Student Services Dr. Emilia Le’i, English instructors Melelina Fiaui and Ben Goodwin; ICT instructor Ernie Seiuli; and her Political Science advisor, Lilian Temese for assistance with the application process.
“Additionally, I want to thank my parish Saint Peter and Paul of Lauli’i for keeping me in their prayers,” she added, “but most importantly, my amazing parents Kitara Vaiau of Alofau and Aunu’u and my mother, Etevise Vaiau for their unwavering support and encouragement.”