Asian-American Footsteps Conference Comes to Campus


David Li ’21

Three students participate in the Microaggressions: Unpacking and Addressing the Hidden Messages workshop.

Over 500 students from 37 independent schools roamed the halls of Main Building, many having traveled up to four hours to attend the 9th annual Asian American Footsteps Conference (AAFC).
This year, the school hosted the AAFC on April 14th, with the theme “Our Stories, Our Impact, Our Future.” The conference aims to bring together members of the Pan-Asian community to connect and educate each other with workshops and speakers. Felix Bao ’21 said, “The main goal of the AAFC…is to send a message to all students of Asian descent that first, they are being heard; second, there are a lot of people out there feeling just the same way and struggling for the same goal[s]; and third, there is a safe and inclusive place where they can share their stories and express their feelings.”
The conference was founded in 2011 by Phillips Academy Andover’s Asian Society. Hotchkiss’s connection with the AAFC began two years ago, when Mr. Pierre Yoo, co-organizer of this year’s event and faculty advisor of Triple A (Asian-American Association), led a delegation of 26 students and three faculty members to Andover for that year’s conference. The following year, Hotchkiss sent 35 students and five faculty members to the Deerfield conference. Soon after, Hotchkiss was confirmed as host for the 2019 AAFC. Ms. Yasumura, co-organizer of this year’s conference, said, “By hosting [the AAFC], we knew we could share what we had learned and continue to enhance a better understanding of the diversity within the Pan Asian experience.”

My favorite time during the conference [was] facilitating [the networking group], because it was some one-on-one time to talk to the people and get to know [them].

— Grace Li ’21

Ms. Yasumura, Mr. Yoo, Ms. Peggy Hsia, and five Core Team members – Bao, YY Cher ’20, Skylar Kim ’19, Gemma Tung ’19, and Amelia Wang ’21, worked together to plan the conference. Wang said, “When I’d show up to a meeting every Sunday, a spread of food on the coffee table in the Dean’s Wing [always] made the planning process so much better. We all played to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We really got to bond and to know each other better throughout the process of planning a conference in which all of us were so invested.”
In the morning, attendees gathered in Walker Auditorium after being welcomed by fifty-two student volunteers. The student volunteers included workshop facilitators and networking group leaders who created conversation with groups of students from various schools at lunch and following the workshops.
Students led by Eric Chun ’19 then performed a medley of songs in various Asian languages. Afterwards, Mr. Yoo and Kim introduced the keynote speaker, Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee.
Lee is a diversity consultant and faculty member at Seattle Girls’ School, where she teaches STEM. Lee addressed the entire school community during Auditorium on April 12, with a presentation entitled “Navigating Microaggressions: Dialogue Tools for Ouch Moments.” She outlined the variety of ways people can handle uncomfortable situations containing microaggressions. At the AAFC, Lee shifted the focus of her presentation to her personal story of growing up with an Asian identity.
Throughout the day, participants attended three workshops, which they chose prior to the conference. This year’s conference offered 25 workshops, led by experts, college students, and students from Hotchkiss and other prep schools. Topics ranged from “Racism in Homogenous Asian Countries” to “Discovering Minority Relationships Through Hip-Hop.” Vincent Chen, a student participant from St. George’s school, said, “I attended ‘What I Said and What I Meant,’ and ‘Leading with Purpose and Presence.’ Through these workshops, I gained more ambition and desire to fight for the equality of our race.”
Students gathered in classrooms during lunch and at the end of the day for networking groups. These groups had no set discussion topics, which gave participants a chance to share their experiences freely. Each group was led by one Hotchkiss student and took place during two 50-minute slots. Volunteer Grace Li ’21, said, “My favorite time during the conference [was] facilitating [the networking group] because it [was] some one-on-one time to talk to the people and get to know [them].”
Phillips Exeter Academy will hold next year’s conference.