To celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APIA Scholars is excited to feature voices from our staff and Board of Directors! Below are reflections on identity, work life, and heritage from Aimée Meher-Homji (Board Chair), Christina Lambert (Senior Director of Student Success), and Cindy Luo (Senior Programs Associate).
What led you to pursue involvement with APIA Scholars?
Aimée: My employer at the time was very involved with APIA Scholars and the more I learned about the organization and its mission, the more intrigued I became and wanted to become more involved.
Christina: I previously worked at a non-profit scholarship foundation in the Bay Area at an AANAPISI program at Bunker Hill Community College which was truly a gift of an opportunity. I was able to build culturally responsive student services, help shape curriculum that honored students’ identities, and work with some amazing students. APIA Scholars is a unique mix of those two experiences that really shaped who I am as a professional.
Cindy: One of my close friends/mentors encouraged me to apply for a role on the Programs team back in 2021. I was really excited to enter a space where my experiences navigating higher education as a first-generation Asian American student would be valued, especially during a time of heightened need and a shifting educational landscape.
How have your background and your communities shaped the person you are today?
Aimée: My heritage has had a significant influence on who I am today and how I operate. One of the key values I grew up with was paying it forward and giving back to my community.
Christina: I am a Korean American adoptee and really didn’t get the chance to explore my Asian American identity until I went to college. There, I was welcomed by the Asian American community and became deeply involved in multicultural affairs and student services. I knew that I wanted to continue creating spaces for folks to feel like they belonged, and where they could feel affirmed. That space was so important for me to help start my identity journey, and I want to continue to help others with their own. Additionally, as a queer person, community is what helped me thrive. The queer community showed me that honoring a person’s full self is the best way for us all to care for one another. It helped me shape my own values of connection, integrity, and kindness.
Cindy: I credit my Chinese immigrant parents for teaching me and giving me so much when they didn’t have a lot. My first love was books, and I remember my mom bringing me and my siblings to the local library on the weekends, and that was such a haven for me. Values of learning, compassion, and humility remain at my core today. I couldn’t have described it this way then, but my childhood was continually shaped by immigration, class, gender, and race. I hold so much gratitude for the lessons that I got to learn at an early age; my siblings who challenged me; my teachers who nurtured me. In college, I was fortunate to cultivate a critical, global perspective to better understand my place in the world and within my own communities.
What advice do you have for current scholars in relation to navigating identity development in their academic and professional journeys?
Aimée: Always make sure your voice is heard. Let nobody or nothing silence you. Continue to learn, develop yourself and trust your flight.
Christina: Be patient and kind to yourself, lean into relationships that help you feel more and more like yourself. And find support from those who listen to you but will also help push you further! Never sell yourself short and always know that your values and identity are your greatest strengths.
Cindy: Seek out opportunities to learn about your own history – whether that’s taking classes, (re)learning a language, talking to family & community members, going to museums, traveling, etc. Set intentions for what you want to actively learn about outside of a traditional classroom, and give yourself the space to explore, imagine, and do things that scare you. Cherish the time that you have with the people you love, be open to the predictably unpredictable changes that life throws your way, and make time for introspection about where you are and where you want to go.
How will you celebrate Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders during Heritage Month this May?
Aimée: By focusing on those whom I mentor and helping their journeys
Christina: By attending events at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, a really wonderful organization striving to foster more understanding and cross-cultural dialogue.
Cindy: By going home to see family in New Jersey & New York and dedicating more time to reading books from AANHPI authors.
What is something that brings you joy?
Aimée: Helping others thrive
Christina: Food and searching for the perfect meal! I also try to get outside as often as I can to help myself feel grounded and centered.
Cindy: Making & eating dumplings, long walks & being out in nature, and googly eyes & everything bagels 🙂