March Newsletter

Spring is here! The slush is fading, the sun is out and CYI is kicking into high gear to prepare for new programming. In the March 2018 Newsletter, learn how you can apply to be a Coordinator for Summer Leadership Institute, check out our Legacy of Leadership feature, Karmen Cheung, and find out more about the OCA-UPS Gold Mountain Scholarship for High School seniors.

Summer Leadership Institute Is Hiring!  

The Summer Leadership Institute is looking for one dedicated and passionate co-coordinator to lead the 2018 SLI team. The coordinator will work with a second coordinator from Coalition for the Revitalization of Asian American Studies at Hunter College (CRAASH) to lead a team of 3 facilitators. The co-coordinator should be available for 6-8 consecutive Saturdays in July and August, and weekly staff meeting with facilitators. Please submit your resume and a cover letter to by Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 11:59pm EST.

To find out more information about SLI and the co-coordinator opportunity, visit

We invite applications from high school seniors, college students, and recent graduates who are passionate about issues affecting the Asian American diaspora (including, but not limited to, immigration/belonging, gender/sex/sexuality, and sustainable communities), interested in the community development of Chinatown, and willing to face the rewarding challenge of working with a team of amazingly dedicated co-facilitators to raise social consciousness among Asian American youth.

Legacy of Leadership Series: Karmen Cheung

Karmen Cheung

Hello Fellow CYI-ers!

My name is Karmen Cheung and I currently reside in the City of Boston, a place that oftentimes seems more like a large New England town than a city – charming, but with nothing close to the diversity of people, food, and culture that is available in New York. While I was definitely skeptical of this place at first, it has really grown on me and I would encourage everyone to get out of New York City for at least a year or two.

I grew up on the outskirts of Chinatown in Manhattan (right across from where that massive “One Manhattan Square” tower is going up) and was the Head Coordinator of the Chinatown Literacy Project back in ’07-’09 and a participant of the Summer Leadership Institute in the summer of ’08. Since then, I went to Yale College and majored in Environmental Studies, worked at an environmental consulting firm for two years, and then went to MIT for a Master in City Planning/Real Estate Development. I just graduated last June and think that I’m finally done with school!

Since leaving the CYI family, I have always tried to stay connected to whatever Asian American community that has been accessible to me. At Yale that was through the Asian American Cultural Center on campus, and in Boston it has been through my involvement with non-profits in Boston’s Chinatown and starting the Boston Chapter of the Yale Asian American Alumni group. I do this partly because it reminds me of the community that I had at CYI, but also because I see these groups as ways to continue the work that I had begun as a CYI participant – to politically engage my fellow Asian Americans and to make the world more just and inclusive place for marginalized communities. It is no exaggeration to say that my experience at CYI is a big part of what shaped me into who I am today. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the mentors and peers I met through CYI broadened my horizons, helped me question the status quo, and empowered me to believe that I can create change. Through CYI, I got a glimpse of what our history textbooks don’t teach us and have been continually re-learning history ever since. Over the past several years, I have seen my fellow alumni from CYI use their passion for change in propelling them to pursue unconventional careers.

I am currently pursuing a career in real estate development because i think it is one of the tangible ways that inequality has manifested itself in America. Owning real estate is one of the main pillars of wealth creation for the middle class in America and the real estate industry has continually precluded minority communities from participating. The company that I work for is a for-profit company but we primarily build affordable housing and when we do build market rate housing it’s often in communities that are “naturally affordable.” I’ve learned a lot over the past nine months at my job and am happy to have a supervisor that is invested in my personal and professional growth.

Whatever path you choose, I encourage you to find the right mentors that are invested in you and peers that continue to encourage you to think outside the box. I’ve meandered a bit in my path – switching from the environmental field to real estate development – but I think that is totally okay and I will probably continue to meander. I’m a firm believer of taking opportunities that present themselves to you and that it’s never too late. The most important question to ask yourself is “why?” and “is it worth it?” – and these are really easy questions to forget when you’re stuck in the day-to-day.

Stay in touch with CYI folks – somehow everyone ends up doing pretty cool stuff!

Opportunity for HS Seniors: OCA-UPS Gold Mountain Scholarship

GMS Flyer

Stay Connected!

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Chinatown Youth Initiatives (CYI) is a 501(c)(3) certified non-profit organization whose mission is to empower New York City youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to address the needs of Asian American, immigrant, and other underrepresented communities. By providing a safe and supportive environment, CYI works to build a legacy of young leaders by strengthening awareness of community issues through project initiatives.

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