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May Is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Elise talks with with AAPI Youth Rising leaders, left to right: Mina Fedor, Siwoo Rhie, and Charlee Trenkle. Maxwell Wong joined the girls by phone. 

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. AAPI Month is dedicated to celebrating the history and culture of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. It has been a busy month for AAPI Youth Rising, an organization started by a group of California middle schoolers. They launched the ONE/180 Pledge to provide AAPI history and culture lessons to classrooms across the country. 

I recently talked with founder Mina Fedor and three members of her board: Charlee Trenkle, Siwoo Rhie, and Maxwell Wong. They were visiting Los Angeles to teach a one-hour AAPI history lesson to fifth- and eighth-grade classrooms. “We’re asking schools to pledge to have at least one day of AAPI history and culture out of 180 academic school days a year,” Charlee said. 

Throughout the month, the group has been teaching their lessons in person and on Zoom to schools that have accepted the pledge. According to Maxwell, the group created the pledge because very little Asian history is taught in schools in the U.S. 



AAPI Youth Rising got their start in March 2021, just days after a fatal shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, that targeted Asian American women. The student group organized a rally in Berkeley, California, to raise awareness about the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1,200 people showed up to their rally. Mina realized that “people just wanted to speak out and do something after that tragic event and have a healing and uplifting time.”

Since then, AAPI Youth Rising has been continuing their efforts to dispel negative stereotypes and increase acceptance of the AAPI community through education. Their lessons explore the contributions of Asian Americans in every area of life—from education and the arts to politics and activism.

“We try to put stories out there,” Siwoo said, “so that people can relate to us, so people can understand what we go through.” 

AAPI Youth Rising and its members have received national recognition. After being profiled by several news outlets, the group received a $25,000 donation from American Girl to support their ONE/180 Pledge.

Mina was chosen as a finalist for TIME Kid of the Year for 2021 and is a 2022 Youth Ambassador for Act to Change, an Asian American advocacy group. She recently told The TODAY Show that she hopes to inspire other kids to make a difference. “Talk to people,” she said. “Get the word out about whatever issue it is that you feel really passionate about fighting for.” 


Photo courtesy of the author