Meet one of our Malden youth!

Over 20% of the population of Malden is Asian. Malden High School represents the most ethnically diverse high school in Massachusetts. Located just 5.5 miles north of Boston, along the Orange Line, Malden continues to be a hub for new immigrant families, especially for families that have been priced out of Boston’s expensive housing market.

We knew there was demand for a youth program for Asian American youth because we already had a number of Malden youth travel into Boston weekly to be a part of our Chinatown A-VOYCE program. Earlier this year, we launched our A-VOYCE high school youth leadership program, conveniently held at Malden High School, with an initial group of 8 youth. During the summer, the program expanded to 15 youth, all from Malden. ACDC recently opened a Malden office across the street from the high school, so still very accessible to students.

One of the summer program youth leaders, My Hua, shared her perspective on growing up in Malden:

My (on the left) with friends at Coytemore Lea Park.

My (on the left) with friends at Coytemore Lea Park.

“Hi! My name is My, and I’m a senior at Malden High School. I've lived in Malden ever since I moved here from Vietnam when I was only a year old. I have 2 siblings, a sister and brother, but my family feels so much larger than that because I was raised close to my cousins. Which I have 14 of! On my mom's side alone!

Living in Malden has always been pleasant, it's so familiar and secure to me yet always changing its shops, residents, programs, and activities. The city continues to grow and improve—just like me!

For one of our workshops, we asked youth to write about some of their favorite hangout spots in Malden. This is what My wrote.

To grow and improve myself, I joined A-VOYCE. The program gave me the learning opportunity to speak up and make a change in the city that I’ve always called my home. I’m really grateful for being able to be a part of the program, and I’m always telling others to join as well ! ” 
— My Hua

“Coytemore Lea Park is an easily accessible park that is really pretty and large. I go there often with friends, especially since they live near the park, and it's fun to go to when the weather is warm.

The park has a lot of pleasant attractions for everyone to enjoy. There is one main path that stretches through from one side of the park to the other. There is a large playground in the middle of the park, a small seating area, a basketball court, and even a public garden. This is a place to me that holds special memories. Both my family and friends like to walk around the neighborhood, and we often come to this park. Going to the park always results in a good time for me, no matter what.

The park looked different a couple years ago. It was the same size, but the playground was tiny and the main path was a dirt path. Whenever it rained, the path would turn into mud puddles and would make it slippery for me to walk. I hated it! Malden eventually renovated the park into what it looks like today, but that isn't the end of the story.

It is the community’s job to maintain the park and keep it clean, especially the public garden. But some park goers allow their kids to run in the garden and trample the plants and flowers planted in there, making the garden very unpleasant to look at for the rest of the community who go to the park. However, members of the community soon worked together to try and regrow the garden. Today the garden is in the progress of becoming a really beautiful place to plant vegetables and flowers. Plus, parents are a lot more careful with their kids playing inside there now.

The park’s improvement truly makes me proud to be a part of the community, and I believe it will improve even more to years to come – for generations of families and friends to enjoy.”

We are excited to bring more Malden youth perspectives, like My’s, for you to enjoy. My, it’s great to have you as part of the ACDC family!

If you want to support more young leaders like My, please consider making a donation:

Reflections: Amy

Amy (left) pictured with Carro, a former A-VOYCE youth from 10 years ago, in front of the new community mural in Dorchester's Fields Corner.

Amy (left) pictured with Carro, a former A-VOYCE youth from 10 years ago, in front of the new community mural in Dorchester's Fields Corner.

ACDC started running youth programs in 2003, creating projects like the Chinatown Banquet, a series of short films featuring Chinatown’s history and community members. Asians Voices of Organized Youth for Community Empowerment (A-VOYCE) was developed in 2005. The program was conceptualized by a group of youth from prior years, who identified the lack of Asian American-centered or Chinese-language programming on the radio. The youth curated a public radio program discussing cultural and social issues, while developing the knowledge and skills to use media as a social and political organizing tool.

Amy Cheung served as one of the program’s first coordinators. With experience as a radio station DJ in college and a growing passion for working with youth, Amy found an opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow at ACDC to implement the A-VOYCE program, for which the previous youth cohort and program coordinator had set the objectives.

“One of the most important lessons that I still carry from this experience is looking at cities and places as being alive and evolving. I think that with the radio and walking tour project having evolved into A-VOYCE as a cohesive youth program, it allowed for this exploration of not just identity, but also of place. When you do this kind of work you see how alive a neighborhood is and changes over time. Working with ACDC sparked an interest in community and urban planning and placemaking. I find myself more observant, wondering how a neighborhood has evolved and who was part of that process. You come to realize and appreciate how vibrant cities are. I remember taking youth on a college tour and while on the commuter rail, one of the them was in awe of the drastically different environment in the suburbs. It was a lesson on wealth and income inequality, and thinking about how we move through the world and observe these differences.”

Amy recalls how facilitating a group outside of an academic setting created impactful, relational moments, “These experiences have a lot of value because as a young person going through the challenges of adolescence and life, having a fun and safe community can go a long way. When I got married a few years ago, I invited my former youth because a lot of my identity today is so intimately tied to my experiences as a young adult and doing youth work. They were an important part of that journey.

“I currently serve on ACDC’s board where I offer my perspective on programs and youth work. It’s been really amazing to see how the board is so supportive of youth work, especially because of how integral youth are in community development work overall.”

Reflections: Mei-Hua

Mei-Hua Li AR 2.jpg

Mei-Hua joined A-VOYCE when she was a freshman in high school, nearly a decade ago, after learning about this program through the Boston Youth Fund. Although the history classes in school touched on immigration in the US, Mei-Hua realized that the curriculum did not include much on Asian immigrant narratives. Only through ACDC did she learn about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was the first law in the US implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. She took the initiative to further research the Act, incorporated it into her school papers, and shared this part of history with Chinatown walking tour visitors.

As told by Mei-Hua Li:

“Back then, I was not an outspoken person, but A-VOYCE emphasized public speaking skills and how to advocate for ourselves. I believe this is important to teach young Asians and Asian Americans because traditionally, we tend to refrain from sharing our ideas in school or in the community. Working with A-VOYCE was a good starting point to develop my identity as a teenager, but also to understand how I can make an impact. As a result, I became more involved with the Culture Club at my high school and eventually became the President. In college, I joined the Asian Studies Initiative at Boston University (ASIABU), an academic group on campus to spread awareness about Asian culture. Eventually, I became more involved with my ethnic church, and continued to serve fellow immigrants through teaching them conversational ESL.

I am a first generation immigrant and the first in my family to graduate from college. I came to the US when I was 11 years old, and kept strong ties to my Chinese heritage after I moved here. In high school, I felt conflicted between identifying as Asian and American. Alan Ratliff and Amy Cheung, former A-VOYCE coordinators, helped me realize that I can be both. I wrote about this experience in college applications.

Amy was really helpful when I applied to college. She helped me recognize my strengths, and encouraged me to submit my story as a first-generation immigrant to the Harvard Education Review. I was so excited when it was published! That experience taught me that I could share my story and hopefully have a positive impact on those who are going through similar experiences.

I learned about gentrification from ACDC, and started to notice outside developers building luxury condos in Chinatown, driving out long-term residents. It felt like Chinatown was losing its sense of community. As a new immigrant, living in a tight-knit community helped my family transition to life in the US. It benefitted us so much. Seeing that same community starting to dissolve is devastating.

Now, as a young adult, I can reflect on my experience with ACDC and see how A-VOYCE cultivated a sense of community for me, how I want to help fellow immigrants. As a former Chinatown resident and being bilingual, I have the skills and perspective to help others. I studied speech therapy, and now I’m in graduate school studying behavioral therapy. After high school, I continued to volunteer at ACDC for various events and projects, and though I haven’t been as active in the last few years, the passion for serving the community that I developed has stayed with me. I get to combine my love of helping others with my bilingual skills to work with Chinese-speaking families with children who have special needs.

If I didn’t join A-VOYCE, my life would be very different. I might have gone to another youth program, but ACDC’s focus on community development and affordable housing—my family also lived in affordable housing—made me realize how it is so important that we continue to advocate for this. It’s amazing that there are organizations like ACDC that seek the wellness of low-income families and programs like A-VOYCE to help youth to find a place where they feel belong and contribute to the community where they live in.”