A Decade and More: Volunteering for YO
I first heard about Youth Event when I was part of Chinatown Youth Club and we were invited to participate in 2002. As a participant, I remember being a competitive individual who wanted to win first place. After reflecting through the times I was participating as a youth, I now remember something more important that I didn't realize back then. I remember having caring and inspiring team leaders who showed me that giving back to my community was more valuable than winning. It wasn't obviously mentioned or shown, but I couldn't imagine a better way than having one of my team leaders be the Miss Los Angeles Chinatown Queen. What she represented as queen along with her contribution to APEX's mission through YO was like icing on the cake.
They provided a bigger vision for me than what I had for myself. Before YO, being successful was my vision, but in a completely different way. It meant making a lot of money, working at my dream job and being the "man." However, my team leaders showed me that I could still be the "man." While they couldn't show me how to make a lot of money or get my dream job, they demonstrated how I can, instead, be a leader who can do great things and change people's lives for the better. I can be remembered as someone who only looks out for himself or I can be remembered as someone who also looks out for others. Without a doubt, I’d rather be the latter. Like that famous line from the Declaration of Independence, “we hold this truth to be self-evident”: if it's only going to be for yourself, then there will never be enough to make you happy. Therefore, I saw their expanded vision for me as an opportunity to be what Magic Johnson called it, a "catalyst for positive change in my community." That's the reason why I began volunteering as a team leader after graduating high school in 2006 and that's the reason why I continue to volunteer after all these years. I have the ability to make a difference, even if it's one street corner at a time. It may not always be with YO, but it's a first step.
And what a journey it has been since that first step! Being around for this long has truly been a blessing. Not only have I met extraordinary people who have become my friends, but I've also been fortunate enough to see how YO has evolved for the better through the years. For starters, having the event tied to a specific theme each year is what made it unique year after year (Search for Z Cure and The Quad Wizard Tournament). The activities may be similar, but the challenges in completing it are different. For that, I have to thank the many Chairs and Directors of YO that I've worked with for their creative vision. Like many team leaders before me, I'm just grateful for the opportunity to assist APEX in fulfilling their mission through YO. Whether as a team leader or behind the scenes as a committee member, it's been a wonderful experience. When it’s time to move on, I hope I have inspired the next generation of youth.
Above: Volunteers from 2015 Youth Event: The Quad Wizard Tournament