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Youth Leadership Track | Featured Speakers

Calling all high school students! Are you graduating and ready to tackle on college? Are you interested in learning more about your identity and gaining skills that you push you to the top? Come join OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates’ two day youth leadership conference with a powerhouse lineup of speakers and workshops. Take away 7 habits of highly effective teens and network with fellow students and presenters. With this FREE event and FREE food you won’t want to miss out!

Cultural Intelligence

Gerry Fernandez is Founder and President of The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA).Fernandez is MFHA’s chief visionary and thought leader on multicultural strategies, Cultural Intelligence and talent development practices.


Fernandez founded MFHA in 1996 while employed as national account manager at Minneapolis-based General Mills, Inc. He began his research and development career with General Mills in 1992. Before joining General Mills, Fernandez spent more than 10 years as a senior manager for restaurant company RARE Hospitality, Inc, (now owned by Darden), which known for such fine-dining concepts as The Capital Grille, Hemenway’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar, and The Old Grist Mill Tavern.


Fernandez is currently a trustee of Johnson & Walles University, a member of the board of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and a founding member of the Reseaerch Chef Association. He is a life member of the NAACP and an active member of the Women’s Foodservice Forum.


Fernandez received the General Mills’ "Champion’s Award” in 1997. He was the first recipient of MFHA’s Ernest Henry Royal "Pioneer Award,” a recipient of Nation’s Restaurant News’ "Innovator of the Year” award, and was named a "Rising Star” by Restaurant Hospitality magazine in 1988.


He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Foodservice Management and Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. In addition, he holds and honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Johnson & Wales University.

Seven Effective Habits
Christina Phan is originally from Houston, Texas and current a senior at Barnard College. With focus in Political Science, her career aspiration is to become a lawyer. This summer she is a CAPAL scholar and an intern investigator at The Public Defender Service (PDS) for the District of Columbia. PDS provides legal representation for indigent individuals in D.C. As a first generation daughter of Vietnam War refugees, education accessibility, race relations, and immigration issues are especially important to her. In her free time, she enjoys film photography and amateur cooking. She spent her junior year studying abroad at the University of Oxford and developed a new interest in mountain hiking. An alum of the 2012 OCA intern class, she is excited to train the Youth Day facilitators for this year's convention!

Nhia Lee is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a B.A. in Communication Studies and a double minor in Asian American Studies and Political Science. His area of studies centers on the media and influences our society’s understanding of race, culture, and identity. On his campus, Lee has proven to work towards creating dialogue regarding issues affecting the APIA community and has held several workshops regarding these issues allowing for students on his campus to openly discuss and engage with one another. He just recently brought over 200+ college students within the Twin Cities area to a conference that he planned, facilitated, and implemented – The Hmong Minnesota Leadership Conference—to create dialogue and actions in combating issues affecting the APIA community.

When he is not planning conferences, facilitating workshops, reading books written by some of the world leading scholars in Asian American studies, he enjoys playing volleyball, watching movies, and producing music and songs.

Nhia is placed with the office of Congresswoman Grace Meng.

Kalia Vang, a native Milwaukeean, is a recent graduate of Georgetown University where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Government with a concentration in American Government. As a first-generation college student and daughter of Hmong refugees, Kalia seeks to empower underrepresented, vulnerable communities through advocacy and promoting civic engagement.

Through community and campus involvement, Kalia demonstrates a passion for public service and coalition-building. She educated the Georgetown community about the DREAM Act through guest lectures and a "Letters-to-Congress” campaign, tutored an immigrant child in English through Georgetown's DC Schools program, and recently established a Georgetown youth mentoring branch for an Arlington, VA-based non-profit, Educacion Para Nuestro Futuro (Education for Our Future). She served as the Internal Public Relations Chair for the Vietnamese Students Association, representing the Vietnamese American student body in the Students of Color Alliance.

Most recently, Kalia interned with the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center in Washington, DC where she researched the unique educational challenges and needs of Southeast Asian American students. In addition to her advocacy work, Kalia has contributed to diversifying Georgetown through her multicultural performances, choreographing and performing Hmong, Bollywood/Indian, Asian-Latino, Vietnamese, and Filipino dances.   

Kalia is placed with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).

Alison Chang is a proud Taiwanese American and rising third-year Trojan at the University of Southern California. As a Business Administration major, with a minor in Law & Public Policy, she is passionate about serving the community and those around her in any capacity possible. For the past two years, Alison has been working with the educational non-profit organization, CollegeSpring, to assist low-income high school students in realizing their college potential. Through this experience, she has found her great love for teaching and mentoring younger generations and she hopes to continue doing so after graduating from USC.

 On campus, Alison is also extensively involved as a board member for USC’s Taiwanese American Organization (TAO), as well as a member of the USC Helenes, the university’s official all-female service organization. Since freshman year, she has been involved with the Asian Pacific American Students Assembly (APASA) - first as a student intern, then as the elected Finance Director. She was recently elected as APASA’s 2013-2014 Assistant Director for the Undergraduate Student Government’s Program Board. Alison is the current Southern California District Governor and National Vice President-elect for the Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association (ITASA). When she’s not on a conference call or in a meeting, Alison can be found dancing, eating, or sleeping.

Alison is placed with the US Merit Systems Protection Board.

Jin Kim is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania who is expecting to major in either Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) or Health and Societies, with a minor in Asian American Studies. On campus, he is the Vice Chair of Service of the Promoting Enriching Experiences and Relationships (PEER) Asian American Mentoring Program, the Vice Chair of the Collective for Asian Pacific Events (CAPE), and currently sits on the Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board. Off campus, he works for a social impact consulting firm and volunteers at a Bangladeshi American after-school tutoring center. He is constantly looking for new ways to help the APIA community at his school, and he is hoping to use his summer in DC to learn more about the APIA community on a national scale and apply his knowledge to the various APIA organizations at Penn and in Philadelphia. In his free time, he enjoys discovering new music, watching movies, and bonding with friends over good food.

Jin is placed with MOSAICA

No More Standing on the Sideline Thammarath is a senior liaison in the Office of Minority Community Organizing & Partnerships (MCOP) at the National Education Association (NEA), where she works to connect NEA's over 3 million members with the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and to social justice issues like immigration, labor, and voting rights. Prior to the NEA, Ms. Thammarath was the education policy advocate for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). Ms. Thammarath's work is grounded in her experience organizing as a college student and providing services locally around access to affordable and high quality education. In addition to her work at the NEA, Ms. Thammarath serves on the National Executive Board of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and the National Governing Board of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF). Ms. Thammarath proudly represents APALA on the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) as co-chair of the Education Committee.

The daughter of refugees from Laos, Ms. Thammarath was born and raised in southeast San Diego and is a proud product of California's public K-16 education system. She earned a Bachelors of Arts with honors in Political Science, a Bachelors of Arts in Social Welfare, and a minor in Asian American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She’s currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in policy analysis at American University’s School of Public Affairs.

Amrita Singh serves as SALDEF’s Legal and Legislative Affairs Associate, Amrita’s responsibilities focus on assisting community members whose civil rights have been infringed, as well as advocating for legislation related to religious discrimination, racial profiling, school bullying and other issues salient to the Sikh American community. Through her work, Amrita is actively involved in national civil rights campaigns and works closely with government agencies. Additionally, Amrita conducts Sikh cultural and legal awareness trainings and works on a grassroots level to engage the Sikh American community.


Prior to joining SALDEF, Amrita was a Post-Graduate Public Interest Fellow at the Anti-Defamation League where she worked on matters related to religious discrimination and school bullying. She also previously worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri and served with AmeriCorps.


Amrita graduated with honors from Washington University in St. Louis and attended law school at the University of Florida, Levin College of Law.

Kisha L. Webster is the Associate Director of Welcoming Schools. Kisha works out of the Washington, DC office and provides consultation, training, and technical assistance to professional educators and other key personnel charged with utilizing Welcoming Schools within their school communities. She is also responsible for developing Welcoming Schools materials and training tools.

Kisha is a committed educator who advocates for children and families.  Prior to joining the Welcoming Schools team Kisha spent twenty years as an educator and seven years as a school administrator in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County. As a school administrator she always focused on the needs of students to make decisions on instruction and school climate. Kisha has facilitated trainings and workshops on closing the achievement gap, safe schools and instructional equity at numerous national conferences and is a member of ASCD and the National Association of School Principals. Kisha splits her time between her home in Baltimore and her home state of New Jersey.

One thing that excites me about Welcoming Schools is…

"…having the opportunity to support schools in creating and maintaining learning environments in which educators are given the necessary tools to combat behaviors that can be disruptive to student learning and to students not developing into their best selves.”

Hyacinth Alvaran is a Diversity Program Manager at the Human Rights Campaign, where she manages a portfolio of programs aimed to form strategic partnerships with organizations in various communities through direct service projects such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and the ya es hora citizenship campaign. She also leads HRC’s annual participation in Transgender Day of Remembrance in order to continue raising awareness about the violence that transgender people face. Hyacinth also manages HRC’s Equality Leaders personal leadership development programs, which cultivates a diverse and inclusive pipeline for HRC’s steering committees and Boards. She also guides and supports HRC’s steering committees in their political and community outreach work and, when needed, partners with HRC’s Field staff to advance LGBT rights through laws and legislation, as well as collaborates with HRC’s Foundation staff, who work to improve the lives of LGBT people at home, at work, in schools, in hospitals, at places of worship, and other places in the community. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in International Relations.


Tiffani Sykhammountry is a recent high school graduate who has worked with GLSEN for a year. She started with the policy team and found a path in advocating for LGBT youth after facing bullying and adversity herself. She currently interns at the GLSEN DC office and is headed off to Simmons College in the fall.







You + the Power of Social Media
Phil Yu is the founder and editor of Angry Asian Man, a popular Asian American news/culture blog. Building a steady, loyal readership since 2001, the Washington Post calls Angry Asian Man "a daily must-read for the media-savvy, socially conscious, pop-cultured Asian American." Mixing humor with criticism, Phil's commentary has been featured and quoted in stories for the Post, New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, Los Angeles Times and more. Phil was a recipient of the 2011 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Award for Excellence in New Media from the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, the 2011 Public Image Award from Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and the 2011 Excellence in Media Award from OCA-Greater Los Angeles. He previously worked at the Center for Asian American Media in San Francisco, and currently serves on the Board of Visual Communications. Phil graduated with a B.S. in Radio/TV/Film from Northwestern University, and earned his M.A. in Critical Studies as a Provost Fellow from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television.

Lisa Lee served as the pro bono publisher of Hyphen magazine from 2008 - 2011(, an award-winning publication and website that covers Asian American arts, culture, and politics. In February 2011, Lisa co-founded Thick Dumpling Skin (, a community forum dedicated to discussing body image issues and eating disorders in the Asian American community. The site was picked by Audrey Magazine as one of the best blogs of 2011 and the duo was profiled in the April 2013 issue of Marie Claire in an article titled "The New Change Agents.”

During her spare time, she serves as the communications co-chair for The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum San Francisco Bay Area chapter and sits on the board of Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Lisa was listed on Angry Asian Man's list of 30 Most Influential Asian Americans under 30 in 2009 and is the recipient of the 2011 San Francisco Emerging Leader Asian American Heritage Award. 

Read more about Lisa at Chow is a progressive field and online organizer with Reform Immigration FOR America. She previously introduced herself as the "not lawyer" at the Asian American Justice Center building community and student partnerships for civil rights advocacy. She led the Asian American & Pacific Islander phone bank program for the Democrats in 2010, got an old stodgy man named Marion Barry to apologize for his public anti-Asian remarks, and convened the DC coalition of Asian American Obama supporters in 2012 before hitting the campaign trail. Olivia can now consider herself a former resident of the South and Southwest after running social media for the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC and leading "get out the vote" efforts with Obama for America-Nevada in Northeast Las Vegas. 


She was also given the following titles to learn, work and organize with amazing people: New Leaders Fellow at the Center for Progressive Leadership, board member of the DC Chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, and national board member of the Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. Unfortunately she was instructed to move on with her life and return these titles but considers herself to be an indebted fan of the peers and mentors that let her do the work she gets to do today. No matter how many years camped out in DC, Olivia will always be a Berkeley bear, carrying the Bay Area in her heart and the frequent flier miles to prove it.

What's passion got to do with it? Duh, EVERYTHING!


Richard-Abraham Rugnao is the president and chief emerge officer for rār evolution, a pulse generating and tradition busting public affairs and experiential marketing firm.With its two divisions, RĀR and iemerge, rār-evolution is focused on the vitality of millennial multicultural consumers and influencing game changer GenX pros.


Richard-Abraham is a national author and speaker on the "iBrand” (personal brand) journey. He shares his straight talk experiences with this country’s aspiring leaders and professionals.


As an emerging executive with Yum! Brands, Richard-Abraham was a key architect of the company’s highly recognized global diversity department and direction. Richard-Abraham led diversity and inclusion "step-change” in public affairs, brand marketing, government relations, supplier diversity, candidate sourcing and franchisee pipeline development.


Prior to Yum!, Richard-Abraham was the Sr. Director of Communications and PR for the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC.


Richard-Abraham is the founder of the Richard F. Rugnao College Fund, a unique scholarship organization to support college students with parents incarcerated in prison.

Brian Yang is an Actor and producer best known for his role as "Charlie Fong" on the CBS primetime drama series, Hawaii Five-0. Born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in the Bay Area, Yang is a second generation Chinese American who began his acting career after attending the University of California, Berkeley. There he studied biology and dramatic arts. He works as a producer and actor on projects in New York, Hawaii, Los Angeles and throughout Asia.


In 2009, he was the host of Shanghai Rush, China’s most extensive reality show to date. His production company, 408 Films, has produced feature films in both the US and Asia. Currently, Yang has several projects in development, including the 2012 Jeremy Lin documentary, LINSANITY directed by Evan Jackson Leong, which is set to make its world premiere at 2013 Sundance Film Festival.


Yang has also starred in films such as Alice Wu's Saving Face (Sundance 2005) as Little Yu, Joan Chen's love interest and in the forthcoming "Someone I Used to Know", directed by Nadine Truong and written by West Liang, which he also produced through his production company 408 Films.


Yang keeps his base in New York City, but is frequently on a plane somewhere between Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Taipei or Shanghai.  He loves playing basketball, snowboarding, and travel. Lee served as the pro bono publisher of Hyphen magazine from 2008 - 2011(, an award-winning publication and website that covers Asian American arts, culture, and politics. In February 2011, Lisa co-founded Thick Dumpling Skin (, a community forum dedicated to discussing body image issues and eating disorders in the Asian American community. The site was picked by Audrey Magazine as one of the best blogs of 2011 and the duo was profiled in the April 2013 issue of Marie Claire in an article titled "The New Change Agents.”

During her spare time, she serves as the communications co-chair for The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum San Francisco Bay Area chapter and sits on the board of Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Lisa was listed on Angry Asian Man's list of 30 Most Influential Asian Americans under 30 in 2009 and is the recipient of the 2011 San Francisco Emerging Leader Asian American Heritage Award. 

Read more about Lisa at


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