The following is an article written by JACL Ford Fellow Jacqueline Mac and was printed in the JACLer, Chicago JACL's bimonthly newsletter.
The 2009 JACL National Youth Conference IMPACT!: Your Community, Your Generation, Your JACL brought together 70 youths, whose ages ranged from 15 to 25, representing all seven JACL districts to learn about their community, empower their generation, and redefine what it means to be a youth within the JACL. IMPACT! was held at the beautiful campus of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota from June 26 to June 28.
Participants who were not from the Midwest got a taste of what it is like to have seasons, by experiencing the blistering humid heat during Registration on Friday afternoon, the rainy torrential downpours during the Ultimate Challenge on Saturday morning, and the rare sunny, comfortable, breezy days during Check-Out on Sunday morning.
State Senator Mee Moua welcomed participants with an invigorating speech about embracing her Asian American identity and using that identity as a tool in her career. Senator Moua inspired participants by closing her talk with a personal promise to meet each and every participant at the top.
Unlike previous Youth Conferences, IMPACT! was heavy loaded with multiple social activities on Friday that allowed participants, conference organizers, VIP guests, out-of-town facilitators to get to know each other with speed dating-like rounds of icebreakers and a Taste of NY/SC informal gathering and mingling where participants were encouraged to represent their schools.
Saturday morning began with a boom (literally) as participants were awakened by the midnight thunder to be covered in Midwest rain for their morning activity. Over two dozen facilitators held 23 workshops ranging in topics from making sushi to talking about what it is like to be a JACL fellow to learning how to network. Other workshops included getting involved in college, redefining what being a youth in JACL means, learning about Midwest Japanese American history, and creating videos as a means of marketing. The busy day wrapped up in Macalester’s Hill Ballroom where participants, volunteers, workshop facilitators, and conference organizers enjoyed a semi-formal dinner with a sunset backdrop while listening to Keynote Speaker Amado Uno talk about the importance of youth and passion for community.
Breakfast on Sunday was not a somber moment but a time littered with participants taking pictures, continuing to network and meet new people, and conference organizers energized to finish the last Youth Conference with a bang with Closing Keynote Speaker Shin Inouye and District Caucuses. The fun did not stop when the Conference ended as many participants took trips to see and shop at the Mall of America before returning home, excited to be a part of the JACL.
In my opinion, the pinnacle of the entire conference was the Saturday Night Talent show. Participants were placed in random groups to perform a creative piece representing IMPACT! These acts included Youth Conference Idol, Charades, Top Five Most Awkward Moments of the Conference, and Road Trip to the Youth Conference. The rest of the night included performances from local artists, a capella karaoke performances from JACL National President Larry Oda, JACL National Director Floyd Mori, and National Youth Representative Brandon Mita, a brother-sister duo performance by Brigham and Mackenzie Walker of Lauryn Hill’s rendition of “Killing Me Softy With His Song,” and a beat box battle.
Needless to say, for participants who didn’t know how JACL can be fun, they received a first hand experience that dissolved any and all preconceived notions.