|Mai Youa, center front, with her Genesys Works students|
By Mai Youa Moua, Genesys Works Program Coordinator
When asked how I ended it up at Genesys Works, I usually give the simple response: because I had worked with students of similar backgrounds, and I enjoy interacting with and learning from youth. Plus, the organization presents me with a similar mission: to provide opportunities to disadvantaged students. However, the real motivation to work for Genesys Works lies behind that simple answer.
Since working at Genesys Works, I have met many students whose stories reflect a little bit of mine: students like Pa Loo Lor. While I was pressured to pursue an education, there was also the responsibility to practice the Hmong culture. There was a dual expectation: be independent and successful yet be obedient to a patriarchal community. With conflicting expectations and pressure came fear, obstacles, and lack of confidence.
How was I supposed to live up to the expectations? In high school, I found support in College Possible (formerly Admission Possible), a college access program dedicated to assisting disadvantaged students earn admissions to and succeed in college. Through College Possible, I found the knowledge and confidence to pursue my education and interests. It was the first of many opportunities that opened up more doors for me.
After college, I chose to return and serve with College Possible as an AmeriCorps volunteer, working directly with the students whose shoes I was in just years before. I knew it was something I wanted to do, to give back. I also knew that it did not fit the cultural expectations of being “successful”; I was not going to be a lawyer or doctor. However, serving with a program whose mission I believed in began my own quest to provide resources and opportunities to those lacking them. Coaching my students elevated my passion for working with disadvantaged youth. Hence, I joined Genesys Works so I can continue to extend resources to and empower under-resourced youth to become successful.
Although, I am still attempting to balance the American and Hmong in me like Pa Loo, I am able to define "success" for myself. With a goal of providing access to college and meaningful careers, Genesys Works offers me the opportunity to help students discover their own definition of success by finding a balance between their communities' expectations and their own desires and goals.