Alumnus Spotlight – Allen Chiu
July 9, 2014
Asian Americans for Community Involvement’s (AACI) Leaders in Education, Advocacy, and Democracy (LEAD), formerly Vision New America’s (VNA) Youth Leadership and Civic Engagement (YLCE) program has been connecting young adults to a pipeline of support and leadership training for 16 years. Current congressional aide to community champion Congressman Mike Honda, Allen Chiu is one such example of the exceptional leaders who come from the program. A graduate of the class of 2007, Allen Chiu turned his passion for civic engagement and environmentalism into a career path with the early guidance and development through the program’s internship placement. Allen served as an intern at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations (OCIR). His internship allowed him to pursue these interests and helped him grow professionally as someone involved with developing the AAPI civic engagement pipeline.
During his time at the EPA OCIR, he was able to witness the complexities of public policy and the many perspectives attached to each issue. In describing his challenges in working with competing interests, he remarked “there are always at least two sides of each story.” During Allen’s internship, former California Governor Schwarzenegger requested to toughen regulations on tailpipe emissions, but the EPA’s policies required additional time to review his request. Although the Governor’s request would spur immediate action, Allen knew that the EPA’s methods were the more responsible route.
Allen also learned about environmental and health risks harming the Asian American community through the White House Initiative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI). Armed with knowledge about AAPI community issues and the professional and leadership skills he developed through this internship, he went on to become the inaugural fellow for the Asian American Civic Project and participated in highly competitive Congressional races in Minnesota. This connected him with other like-minded advocates and expanded his network of resources.
Today, Allen is still involved in developing the very AAPI pipeline that helped him discover the LEAD program. After his internship with the EPA OCIR and four years working with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, he later returned to Congressman Mike Honda’s office in San Jose and joined the Bay Area Asian American Legislative Staffers (BAAPALS). He makes a point that his awareness of the LEAD program came from the local AAPI pipeline, and he feeds his passion for civic engagement by becoming a mentor for young professionals who are taking the same journey he went through. In a message to future LEAD interns, he says “stay in touch with your office after your internship is done! I see way too many interns who don’t take the time to cultivate a professional relationship and rapport with the people who can really help you later.” Allen credits his success to the meaningful bonds he formed ever since he started the LEAD program, and he hopes this generation of interns will continue growing this network for future groups of young professionals.