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24th Annual Asian American Student Assembly welcomes UF APIA community

24th Annual Asian American Student Assembly welcomes UF APIA community

Over 1,300 attendants gathered for the 24th annual Asian American Student Assembly, which was hosted in the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. AASA serves as the Fall welcome ceremony for the Asian American community at UF.

Co-directed by Stefan Sanguyo and Anndy Nguyen, this year’s theme, Ascend, was chosen to inspire the incoming class and reflect on all that the Asian American Student Union has accomplished in the past 25 years.

Event attendees sit in the Phillips Center and watch an organization’s introduction video during the 2017 Asian American Student Assembly. Photo by Zachariah Chou

The event was co-sponsored by the Interfraternity Council, Volunteers for International Student Affairs, Student Government Cabinet, Student Government and the Inter-Residence Hall Association. With a total AASU budget of $122,485, AASA received $15,400 for its venue and speaker.

Sanguyo, a third-year criminology major, said that they started planning the event in May.

“We decided to choose the word ‘ascend’ because it’s an active verb,” Sanguyo said. “As our community is known to be very passive, we wanted to prove pretty much everyone wrong that our community isn’t passive and that we are very much working not only to improve our community but our environment around us.”

One of the first major Asian American YouTubers, Kevin Wu, known on his channel as Kevjumba, spoke at the assembly. He emphasized how he conquered adversity – from starting a film career that did not take off as expected to recovering from a car crash in 2016. After Wu left YouTube, rumors swirled about him becoming a monk or joining a cult.

Kevin Wu, known as KevJumba, tells the story of his life after his departure from YouTube. Photo by Zachariah Chou

“I wanted to find my true self – this is a TED Talk right? I’m allowed to go deep into my life story,” Wu joked.

AASA also included dance performances and promotional videos from multicultural Greek organizations and AASU organizations such as the Chinese American Student Association and Korean Undergraduate Student Association.

Ianne Itchon, president of AASU, said she feels the same excitement about AASA that she did as a freshman.

“The only thing that’s changed for me is seeing the amount of work and passion that goes into preparing for the show,” Itchon said.

She said she appreciated the show more after knowing how much all the dancers prepared and how hard the committee worked.

“AASA is a great way to kick off the school year especially for the AASU community mostly because it is a time for everybody to come back after a long summer and sort of realign ourselves with the community and one another,” the fourth-year biochemistry and psychology major said.

New Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs director Jack Nguyen speaks to the crowd while Graduate Assistant Shalini Mirpuri stands behind him. Photo by Zachariah Chou

Former AASA co-director, Jonathan Tanawan, 25, watched the assembly on a livestream. In 2013, when Tanawan co-directed the show, the theme was heroes, to reflect the advocacy of the students who brought about the Asian American Studies minor and the hiring of the first APIA Affairs director.

AASA has come a long way from its beginnings – it was held in the Phillips Center for the first time in 2010, and before that, in the Rion and Grand Ballrooms of the J. Wayne Reitz Union.

“I feel like it’s been a huge ascent,” Tanawan said. “I’ve seen a huge increase in production value, there’s a lot more organizations getting involved with the assembly, and I really like how its opened up outside of AASU.”

UF AASU was founded in the spring of 1993.

Unity dancers, comprising of two representatives from each AASU organization, perform a choreographed dance to close out the show. Photo by Zachariah Chou

“We’re standing on the peak of 25 years of history, but once you’re on the peak of the mountain, you have to take a moment, take in the view and really reflect on the accomplishments that the community has done on the journey that we’ve traveled,” Itchon said.

While AASA brings together Asian American students at UF, it also increases awareness of the APIA community.

“I think it’s important for other non-Asians to also realize how strong our community is,” Sanguyo said. “Even if it means one person that’s not Asian that has a really good time at AASA, I think it’s a win-win situation.”

Featured image by Zachariah Chou