In an effort to strengthen immigrant communities’ representation in government, politically active Asian-Americans participated in a new training session last week aimed at helping them stay connected to their communities’ values.

The session was part of a series of workshops designed to create political and community leaders that respond effectively to the needs of immigrant groups.

“We take the approach that immigrant communities help each other in different ways,” said Sayu Bhojwani, founding director of the nonprofit New American Leaders Project or NALP, which helped organized the training.

Bhojwani said the group aims to help leaders “lead in a way that is self-aware and is responsive” to their communities’ values.

Another event organizer, Gloria Chan, explained that immigrant groups often face several challenges in gaining political influence, including duties to family, too few role models in leadership positions, and a lack of representation.

“As a community matures politically,” she said, “that’s when our concept of what’s possible expands” and partnerships are built.

Chan is president and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, the other nonprofit behind the workshop.

The training involved current and former government officials and community advocates with Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean backgrounds. Participants include aides to the Los Angeles mayor’s office, Rep. Judy Chu of the San Gabriel Valley and others who have worked in politics and community organizing.

One of the participants, Genevieve Jopanda, said one of her goals was “identifying with other people and their experiences to learn from each other.”

“Networking is really important, especially when you’re serving a community,” said Jopanda, who is a district representative for  Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Fiona Ma.

Until last week’s event in Irvine, NALP’s workshops focused on preparing immigrants for leadership positions. Friday’s training was the group’s first for people already serving in government and other leadership positions.

Bhojwani said she’d like the participants to take away a sense of shared experience and concrete tools to stay true to their community’s values.

Ultimately, she said, the training is part of a process that aims to achieve proportional representation for immigrant groups and “policy that reflects the concerns of all communities.”


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