Jennifer Zhao, Board of Education, Niskayuna
I have always been passionate about learning and education, and admired my teachers throughout my schooling. When I had children of my own, I was even more motivated to discover the art of teaching, guiding, and mentoring as well as grappled with school choices for my kids. When I stumbled upon the opportunity to run for the Board of Education in Niskayuna, at first I felt supremely under-qualified. As an engineer by training I never thought too much about politics, but I do care a great deal about education our next generation and preserving the integrity of our democracy. When I decided to run, I had only less than a year’s experience in the public school system as my son was just completing his Kindergarten year. Unlike other candidates, I didn't have years of experience in other non-profit boards or organizations. I didn't feel like I was “in the know” in my town. And even though I had lived in Niskayuna for more than 10 years, I was definitely not born and raised here and therefore lacked the deep rooted connections that some of the other candidates may have.
Nevertheless, I knew I was passionate about taking our schools to the next level, and wanted to serve our community and bring in new ideas. With the help of friends and family, I started to focus on what I could do instead of qualifications I didn't have. I do have a diverse background of different types of education experiences, public schools China, urban low income schools Arizona, and high achieving suburban schools Ohio, etc. I do have an engineering degree and work experience at GE that both help with a view for preparing our kids for next generation jobs, as well as provided me leadership and communication skills that would help me in my role on the board. Even being a young mom had its advantages, for example, I could more accurately empathize with the elementary age parents. By focusing on the positives, I was able to at least convince myself that I could do a good job, and that's where it had to start.
Throughout the campaign, I listened to many voices parents, community members, students, which helped me form a more complete picture of areas that needed the most attention and gathered ideas on how to tackle them. Through the hard work of many volunteers including many APAPA members, we were able to pull through a win in an unlikely race. Throughout the campaign, I maintained that I would do my best to run a good race. No matter what happened on Election Day, I would have learned a great deal and hopefully inspired others to participate in election process. I am both honored and humbled given such an important responsibility of shaping the schools for the benefit of our children and our future.
Akbar Khan, President of Pakistan Association of NY Capital District
As I know, APAPA is an organization of organizations based on principles of equality, peace and justice for all. It is striving for representation and fair share and place in the society for all Asian Americans. Its meetings and parties are a fun-gathering of very friendly and educated people but always keeping in mind the mission of APAPA which is to unite, educate and empower people. Personally, I would recommend to all from the Asia (includes Indian sub-continent) to join and see for themselves.