Asian Student Union builds strong bonds

Alternative Copy story and photos by Lilly Sample

In a school lacking diversity, it can be difficult for minorities to feel included.  New this year, the Asian Student Union helps students find peers with common interests.

The group meets on Tuesdays during Flex Time in room E124.  Shannon VerDuin, a print room paraprofessional, advises ASU as well as K-POP Club.  Originally started up by senior Darling Lee and junior Angie Vang, the club has grown to 16 members.  

“As a leader, you have to understand who your audience is, and I realized that there were a lot of Asian students,” Lee explained.

Last year, Lee was the president of Students Promoting Cultural Awareness, which is now known as Diversity Club.  SPCA was the base for what ASU is today.  After, seeing the Black Student Union form, Lee decided to organize a club of her own to satisfy the interests of her classmates.  With the help of Vang, ASU was created.

“I got involved with the Hmong community approximately 15 to 20 years ago when the last group of people were being evacuated from Laos,” VerDuin said.

This has been a great way for them to meet each other and get to know their different ethnic backgrounds.”

— Shannon VerDuin

By having many cultural Asian experiences, especially with the Hmong culture, VerDuin felt like a good fit for the ASU advisor.  Many years ago, VerDuin aided new Hmong immigrants by organizing a warehouse full of household items. She sorted couches, tables and beds to make it easier for the immigrants to set up their houses.  

Several years later, she found herself working at Wausau East High School.  With 30 percent of their student population in the district being Hmong, she had the opportunity to learn about the culture.  Now, she even has an authentic Hmong outfit and gets invitations to Hmong events.

“This has been a great way for them to meet each other and get to know their different ethnic backgrounds,” VerDuin said.

ASU focuses on both similarities and differences between various Asian cultures.  By eating assorted Asian foods or by simply talking, students gain knowledge about their own culture, as well as the culture of their own peers.  Activities outside of school are also incorporated in the club. On President’s day, club members made about 200 egg rolls and held an egg roll fundraiser.  For the fundraiser, ASU delivered the egg rolls to the high school teachers that attended meetings. The money made went towards their trip to the Festival of Nations.  

 The club plans to visit to the event on May 3.  VerDuin has brought students to Festival of Nations before and she noticed that the students thoroughly enjoyed their visit.  In the near future, the club plans on hosting a community event to provide community members the opportunity to sample a variety of Asian fruits.  

“The members are all over the place.  You have people that are really passionate, then you have people who are always being sarcastic, but you know they care,” Lee explained.

Lee described the group as crazy, serious and goofy.  Members come from a variety of different cultural backgrounds as well as grades.  Many members are Hmong, but there are also a couple that are mix of Japanese and Caucasian,.  One member is from the Philippines and several are native born Koreans.  The group dynamic keeps things fun and interesting for the club members. With some time, the group has grown so close that they even made a group Snapchat, which they use frequently.

“Everyone just kind of thinks that we’re always smart,” junior Laurel Bremer said.

One issue that Bremer and Lee expressed was that people automatically think they are highly intelligent simply because they are Asian.  Both explained their annoyance because they feel as though they are held to unrealistic expectations, so they feel ashamed when they do not meet those set expectations.

 Lee also pointed out how she wishes that classmates and staff would make an effort to try to get to know them.  ASU provides an outlet for not only Asians, but for anyone to learn more about their classmates. The club is open for anyone to join.  Members of BSU have participated in a few ASU meetings, enabling them to understand their peers more.

“We’ve really grown close as a group learning our about differences as well as our similarities, so that’s been really awesome,” VerDuin said.