Why we need to find our TRIBE

Guest Post by Jason Y. Lee

As a Korean-American growing up in Kansas, I can count on one hand the number of friends at school that looked like me. My well-intentioned classmates called me "Bruce" (paying homage to the only famous Asian they knew) and asked me if I knew how to speak Chinese. Growing up in that environment, I learned how to assimilate and mask my Asian-ness, which meant loving Blink 182 and feigning an appetite for meatloaf.

That's why my first day of college was utterly mind-blowing. I saw massive throngs of Asian Americans traveling together around campus. Slowly but surely, I found myself drawn to these groups. It was refreshing to find others whose stories reflected mine, people who knew the trauma of packing kimchi for lunch. I enrolled in "Intro to Asian American History." I learned to crave boba tea and pho. I was starting to understand and embrace my identity as a Korean American.

My newfound pride quickly blossomed into a fervent passion that culminated my senior year when I helped organize KASCON, the largest Korean-American student conference, at UPenn. There I witnessed the incredible impact that like-minded people gathering to learn, grow, and share can have on a community.

I also met countless Korean American leaders -- people who would become some of my closest mentors and friends. We spent hours discussing topics like racism and immigration. We rallied and canvassed on behalf of local candidates. We shared much more than a common heritage; our deep connections were rooted in a relentless commitment to create real change in our community. In short, I found my tribe.

Fast forward seven years and I now understand just how important it is to find one's tribe. This doesn't mean obscuring your quirks and what makes you unique. It's about finding people who can empathize with your struggles, appreciate your gifts, and also share in your vision of the future. After all, we are the sum of all the people we encounter.

That's why today we're launching a new leadership program called TRIBE, a network of Korean-American influencers. Each year, 10 college juniors across the country will be selected to partake in an all-expense paid summit to engage in leadership and character development.

If you believe that a small band of committed people can change the world, TRIBE is for you.

Apply here: ofonetribe.com.

Jason Y. Lee is a filmmaker, entrepreneur, and activist. He is the founder of Jubilee Project and also executive committee member of Mirae Foundation. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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