The Rise Up! program is an arts based program for high school youth in the Los Angeles Chinatown area. The program is a collaboration between Pomona College’s Asian American Resource Center (AARC), and the Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA), a non-profit organization that is located in the Mandarin Plaza in LA Chinatown. Founded by Sissy Trinh in 2002, SEACA seeks to empower Southeast Asian youth in the Chinatown community by raising awareness about social justice issues through leadership development and community organizing. College student interns at the AARC both coordinate and facilitate the two hour Friday afternoon Rise Up sessions for SEACA students. The sessions are based upon a predetermined final project, where the high school students put together the creative skills that they have obtained to complete a cumulative project and are encouraged to share them at the end of the semester.
During the Fall 2012 program, the focus was on an autobiography project in which the high school students were encouraged to explore their family histories and to analyze and express how their personal experiences have shaped who they are today. The creative mediums used were photography and creative writing. The final project was completed and shared by eight students.
The following quotes are from three of the participating high school students on their experiences in the Rise Up program.
S: How do you think Rise Up helped you to develop the art skills you already had?
X: Well, it evolved more. Most of my drawing are paintings had no meaning to it. It was just drawing. But when I was introduced to Rise Up, they taught me how to put my art and have a story with it.
S: What do you mean when you say “story”?
X: Like…What the art means to me, or how I feel about everything around me. I can draw a picture, and it’ll tell me oh, it’s how people-how I feel about SEACA, or about Los Angeles, or my life.
S: How do you think that participating in the program has impacted you?
Z: It kind of motivated me to be more social, I guess.
Z: People. Before, I wouldn’t really just try to talk to anyone, but now that there’s a group of people that I have to see every week, I guess I think that I make attempts to familiarize myself with some of them.
S: What does the Rise Up program do?
Y: The Rise Up program brings awareness to youth in the community to tell them about what’s going on in the community in like, creative artwork and other forms of like creativity, other ways of express that kind of awareness.
S: When you say awareness, what do you mean by that?
Y: Like social injustice and social inequality, because a lot of the students don’t know what it is, and the Rise Up! program kind of explores the history of Asian Americans and other things that we don’t learn in class.
S: What parts of the program are important to you?
Y: I think that important parts of the program is the part, well the part for me, is the Asian American studies part. Like, the parts where we talk about our past, and how like, you should ask your parents about something special to you, or what your name is, because you usually don’t ask your parents about that kind of thing. So then like, you get to learn more about your family as well as your history.
The Rise Up committee at the AARC is excited to see the program take on a new arts-based project during the Fall 2013 program. We hope hearing some of the voices of the students who participate in the program has given you a better idea of what Rise Up does!