Young Leaders Institute's Sixth Year Offers Leadership, Policy Development Opportunities Through Diverse Topics
HOUSTON, August 6, 2021 — In its sixth year, Asia Society Texas Center’s Young Leaders Institute hosted 78 students from 29 different schools across three sessions from late June through July. With the aim of building global competency in high school students to help them become leaders in today’s interconnected world, the institute is designed to expand knowledge and perspectives, encourage collaboration and cooperation, and provide opportunities for critical thinking and leadership. The 2021 Young Leaders Institute offered two virtual sessions focused on the timely topics of U.S.–China Relations and Public Health and one in-person session exploring the issues within Social Justice and Civic Engagement.
Throughout each week-long session, students from diverse schools, backgrounds, and experiences worked in groups to design a policy solution for an issue within the week’s topic, aided by lectures from experts in the field and staff guidance. The virtual sessions allowed the institute to welcome students and guest speakers from outside the Greater Houston area. Meanwhile, in-person students were provided a chance for an offsite visit to SEARCH Homeless Services, where students toured the building, helped prepare hurricane-readiness kits for SEARCH clients, and through a professional panel and interactive activities learned more about the work being done to help individuals and families in Houston move from the streets into jobs and safe, stable homes.
In the U.S.–China Relations session, students heard from Jon Taylor, Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at University of Texas San Antonio; David Firestein, President and CEO of the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations; and Yingyi Ma, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Asian/Asian American Studies at Syracuse University. In Public Health, expert speakers included Michael Ha, Division Director of Disease Control and Clinical Prevention at Harris County Public Health; Brigham Walker, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine; and Gordon Shen, Professor of Health Care Management at UTHealth School of Public Health. In exploring the importance of intersectionality, coalition-building, and community participation in the Social Justice and Civic Engagement session, students heard from Debbie Chen, the Civic Engagement Programs Director for OCA Greater Houston; Irfana Hussain, Director of Education and Outreach at Daya Houston; and Karim Farishta, Chief of Staff for The Asian American Foundation (TAAF).
Students also explored the different facets of leadership throughout the institute as they participated in leadership and team-building activities. In the virtual sessions, students heard from Garza Protocol Associates founder and principal Sonia Garza-Monarchi, who has over 25 years of experience in business protocol, cultural diplomacy, and professional etiquette. Additionally, an early-career professional panel consisting of young professionals from varied backgrounds and fields shared their personal experiences transitioning from high school to university, and from school to work, and offered advice for the students. In-person students benefited from presentations on business etiquette and public speaking, along with additional staff and student interaction.
Each week-long institute culminated in the students presenting their final policy solutions before a panel of three judges on Friday morning.
- In U.S.-China Relations, the highest rated group addressed reforming the U.S. Policy toward Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, impressing the judges with their creative thinking, keen sense of historical context, and understanding of how domestic issues and foreign relations are often linked.
- The top-rated group for Public Health offered a proposal to Fix the Broken Healthcare System and Cultural Barriers for AAPI, which the judges praised as substantive and thorough in addressing such a complex challenge, and which addressed the specific needs of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
- The winning group for Social Justice and Civic Engagement focused their policy on the timely and critical issue of Reforming Mail-in Ballots to Reduce Voter Suppression in Texas, which judges complimented for being remarkably comprehensive with excellent use of supporting evidence and visual aids.
Judges across all three sessions noted the students’ passion for their topics and praised the students as “thoughtful, articulate and informed,” in particular noting how the presentations across the institute covered a breadth of policy topics and proposals and included consideration of real-world impacts and challenges.
Policy development and collaboration within the groups were among what students enjoyed most about the Young Leaders Institute. One student shared, “I had never done a camp like this before, and I think it really gave me a chance to not only think about the problems that we focused on, but also brainstorm productive solutions to them.”
Another student added, “The most important thing I learned this week was learning to not only listen to others, but also to learn how to combine key skills like research, teamwork, policy, and presentation.”
Previous Young Leaders Institute Programming
In Fifth Year, Young Leaders Institute Connects Students, Builds Global Competency Virtually
Young Leaders Institute Broadens Scope, Fosters Collaborative Leadership in Fourth Year
In YLI's Third Year, Students Design Policy Solutions in China, India, and the Middle East
High School Students Discover China and India through Summer Institute
Students Dive Deep Into U.S.-China Relations During Young Leaders Institute
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.