By Colleen Nishikawa-Alanis, Montebello Teachers Association
I am a Japanese American, third-generation ethnic minority. My parents were sent to an internment camp before I was born. When I was a child, they never spoke about their experience or how they felt. They did not want me to hate America, but to be a part of it. They stressed education, and instructed me to work hard and keep my opinions to myself.
My parents always said, “You are Japanese American. You must always remember where you came from.” I have always thought of myself as American and debated the issue with my parents, never having experienced what they went through. However, as I grew into adulthood, I myself experienced more and more roadblocks for a person of color. During this time, I thought perhaps my parents were correct, so I kept my opinions to myself. At best, I discussed them with close friends. This is how I lived my life, although subconsciously, I knew I was not fully connected to myself.
One day, a CTA leader of color shared her positive perception of me. It was something that I did not see, or rather did not want to acknowledge in myself. I disagreed with her. I fought her. This went on for weeks.
Then, she connected me with other CTA leaders, and over time I reflectively revisited my own identity and accepted her perception. I accepted myself. My parents were correct to teach me to remember my roots, but I did not fully grasp that simple statement. To be able to relate, share visions, ideas, opinions and plans with other ethnic minorities — wow, now that is powerful! CTA’s EMEID program helps others while helping me grow (I am free to be me). This is a philosophy, a psychology and a way of life. It is in sync with unity, diversity and collaboration. It is both connected and interconnected. It is a process that continually moves in a circle and ripples in outward expansion. It is my “aha!” life.
The Ethnic Minority Early Identification Development program promotes ethnic minority members by giving participants tools to expand their roles in leadership and themselves. It is an opportunity to broaden one’s knowledge of CTA and explore many possibilities and opportunities of leadership while sharpening your skills. It is like opening a door to a new expansive world. For me, it has enhanced my life both professionally and personally.
I’ve also discovered:
- The program builds on “Awareness” — I came into this program knowing very little about CTA’s purpose and how it functions. Knowing where to get answers, support and guidance is invaluable in advocating for the well-being and progress of our students, teachers and community. Knowing the big picture always puts things in perspective.
- Hands-on learning with “Interconnections” — The EMEID program encourages participants to talk to leaders and staff. Interfacing one-to-one with an individual, from the president of CTA to all its leaders and staff, makes this program unique. It draws you in — you are a part of it, interconnected. In addition, experiencing CTA at work, by physically being present at meetings, conventions, events and State Council, is productive and exhilarating.
Back to Main Page