Two Months of Growing and Learning: My Summer Internship with AAPI FORCE-EF
by Huanvy Phan
Before I start, let me introduce myself: My name is Huanvy, and I use they/them pronouns. I recently graduated with a B.A. in Asian American Studies, and while I was in college, I was deeply involved in the Asian American community. Outside of school, I volunteer with APIENC, a grassroots queer and trans Asian/Pacific Islander community organization based in SF Chinatown. In my free time, I like to watch hockey, write creative fiction, practice digital typography, and go bouldering.
I am very lucky to have a lot of organizing experience, but most of my experiences were in community-building, fundraising, and political education. Social change requires collaborative action on all levels, from the people in the streets to Capitol Hill. I wanted to explore organizing in a sphere that was more connected to institutional change, and interning with AAPI FORCE-EF was the perfect opportunity for me to grow my skills in civic engagement and electoral organizing. I was specifically drawn to AAPI FORCE-EF because of its work with Prop 15: Schools and Communities First, and I had the honor of working on the campaign this summer through small business outreach and phonebanking.
One of my favorite memories from my summer with AAPI FORCE-EF happened during one of these phonebanking sessions. Now don’t get me wrong — phonebanking is hard. Even after a summer of phonebanking 5+ hours every week, I still get all anxious and sweaty when I press that “call” button. The bad conversations are rare, and most of my calls consist of the typical schpiel of “Hi, my name is Huanvy and I’m a volunteer with AAPI FORCE. I’m giving you a call today because I’m reaching out to voters like you to bring more resources to our schools and communities in California…” But once in a while, I get a really good call — sometimes it’s someone who already knows and supports our campaign, sometimes it’s actually a friend who picks up, sometimes it’s a person who is just really thankful that you took the time to call them. Those calls make it all worth it.
One day, I was calling registered voters in Berkeley, so they were mostly young voters in their early twenties. I called this one guy who wasn’t very politically engaged, but he was really friendly (I’m about 60% sure he was flirting with me because he asked for my name twice, my number once, and kept asking follow-up questions to keep me on the line). I’m not one to look for a date while phonebanking, but he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, so I took it as an opportunity to share information and mobilize. We ended up talking for about twenty minutes and not only did I share everything I knew about Prop 15, I also helped him register to vote on the spot. By the end of the call, he promised to make sure all his friends were registered to vote and to tell them all about Prop 15.
Our conversation taught me an important lesson: everyone — regardless of their prior political engagement — deserves a chance to learn, and everyone has the potential to become more engaged and use their voice to make an impact.
Believing in everyone’s capacity for growth and political engagement is only one of many, many lessons I learned during my internship with AAPI FORCE. Over the last few months, I’ve grown skills in outreach and one-on-one conversations, workshop development and facilitation, communications and graphic design, and even day-to-day things like taking initiative and developing work plans. I’m so thankful for how much I’ve grown this summer, but I’m even more thankful to have grown in community where I always felt supported and cared for. Special shoutouts to Lan, Jen, and Timmy for all their encouragement and Andrew for being the dopest co-intern!
This fall, I’m starting a one-year JusticeCorps fellowship with the ACCESS Center, a legal self-help center at San Francisco Superior Court. I’m also applying to law school where I hope to pursue public interest law and eventually work with grassroots communities to amplify their voices and access institutional power for social change. I know I’ll carry this experience with AAPI FORCE-EF into the future, whether it’s drawing upon my confidence built through phonebanking for a job interview or continuing coalition work with the relationships I have built this summer.
For the past two months, we were incredibly fortunate to have Huanvy as our civic engagement intern! Huanvy led our small business outreach work and tirelessly called AAPI voters to inform them of important ballot initiatives. Huanvy was an INVALUABLE part of our team, and although we’re sad they will no longer be working with us daily, we’re excited to continue having them in our network and know they will be doing wonderful things!
Their testimony above shows how much they care about building political power for our AAPI communities. We’re looking for new folks to join our team as volunteers! Come to an upcoming New Member Orientation to learn more about our work and join our community.