In May 2021, Gracyn Kent and Megan Rose joined together to create the Asian American/Pacific Islander Student Union, or AAPISU, as a community for members to learn about culture and identity. The duo also hoped to create a more inclusive space at Ohio University.
“The creation of this community in 2021 was partially out of frustration with the recent hate crimes that were happening, as well as the will, motivation and ambition to create a community where all students of AAPI descent at Ohio University can have a place where they can feel like they belong,” AAPISU Vice President Jake Boyk said.
There are a few other organizations on campus designated for Asian students, such as the Chinese Learners Association, the Korean Student Association and other associations for international students. However, until the AAPISU’s creation, there was not a group with the vision of building an inclusive community with other AAPI students.
“I came into this trying to find my community,” Secretary Aireen Maurisio stated. “I am mixed white and Pacific Islander and I really never got to explore that side of myself. Growing up, I was in a predominantly white community. While I'm pretty much the only Pacific Islander representative in this community, being on the executive board and being able to be a part of these events and things has given me the opportunity to talk about those experiences. I feel like I belong in a different way.”
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of hate crimes committed against Asian Americans rose. From January 2020 to August 2021 there were over 9,000 reported hate crimes according to aapihatecrimes.org.
“Creating this group was just a way of us saying, ‘We are here, and we're going to make our presence known,’” Treasurer Katie Hall said.
Recently, the student organization has begun hosting philanthropic events as well as co-hosting events and panels with other organizations to emphasize support. The organization is attempting to give back to the local community of Athens and OU.
“One of our first philanthropies was a spelling bee for the Dolly Parton's Imagination Library here in Athens County,” Boyk said. “They affiliate over 1400 children in just the Athens region. So we were able to meet our goal of $500 to be donated, where $25 provides an Imagination Library book to a child every month for one year.”
AAPISU also co-hosted a tie-blanket event with the Student Alumni Board. The blankets created were donated to My Sister’s Place, the domestic violence agency in Athens. The organization also hosted an Asian and Black solidarity panel with the Black Student Union to discuss how the two groups could help assist each other.
“We have strong ties to the community because we work closely with the Athens Asian American Alliance, or AAAA,” President Megan Rose said. “As well as AAPI-LEAD, which is a faculty and staff organization. Both of those organizations are newly founded. Since we're trying to create such strong ties with them, we've really dedicated ourselves to continuing to be a part of the Athens community and doing philanthropic events.”
AAAA is another student organization that seeks to bring awareness to joys and struggles of the AAPI community. AAPI-LEAD creates awareness and advocates for AAPI members' needs through educational, cultural, and social activities.
The Student Union will be hosting an AAPI week April 11 through April 15 with a picnic and keynote speakers from the community.