Asian-American and Pacific Islander Student Union

Three students at LHS noticed the absence of AAPI voices in our community-and decided they’ve had enough of that.


In recent years, LHS and LOHS have both created the Black Student Union to raise Black student’s voices and give them a platform to speak up about their experiences with racial discrimination, oppression, and harmful stereotypes, as well as much more. However, Asian American and Pacific Islander students started to realize that there wasn’t anything like that for people in their communities. So students like Ashley Yoon, Arianna Okamura, and Melanie Du decided to create their own.

AAPISU Co-President Arianna Okamura
AAPISU Co-President Ashley Yoon
AAPISU Co-President Melanie Du


“It first occurred to me in junior year that the API community at the schools in Lake Oswego had no voice,” said founder and co-president of the Student Union Arianna Okamura. “Even though Asians are the largest minority group in LO, we have no voice in any racial discussions, especially Polynesians. Within the conversation of race, Asian and Polynesian voices are nowhere to be found.”

Okamura, Yoon, and Du have all made it a point to have interactive discussions with the members about what it means to be Asian or Pacific Islander, focusing on sharing and comparing cultures, upbringings, and family backgrounds. The Student Union includes people of Lao, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Polynesian descent, and more, yet the cultures and backgrounds of each individual are unique to each their own.

Okamura shared that she has noticed some surprises amongst members when they were asked to share their personal experiences and stories. 

“Most members don’t expect anyone to be interested in their journey as an Asian or Pacific Islander in America. I think it’s mostly because nobody really talks about it. Our stories have been passed along and ignored for so long that most AAPI community members don’t realize the importance of telling them,” said Okamura. 

“The members of our club come from extremely diverse backgrounds,” she continues. “Oftentimes students will bring up moments where they felt undermined, insulted, or confused and I never realized that other people in our AAPI community were experiencing the same thing I was at that time.”

The presidents took it even further than having student members share their personal stories. On the Jan. 12 meeting, the presidents invited a guest speaker, Chanpone Sinlapasai, an attorney and advocate for immigration and human rights, to come and speak about experiences in her own life as well as in her career, so that members get a better sense of issues concerning the AAPI community in the status quo and highlight the many injustices people in the community face that go unnoticed in our society.

Chanpone Sinlapasai, Attorney and Advocate for Immigration and Human Rights

Sinlapasai was a refugee from Laos and currently works with and represents immigrants, refugees, and victims of human trafficking from all over the world in court. Her presentation further expanded the Student Union’s global perspective for AAPI history and AAPI global current events, enlightening us about the gut-wrenching realities that immigrants, refugees, and victims of human trafficking in the AAPI community face on a daily basis‒something Sinlapasai regularly bears witness to as part of her job. 

“Our latest guest speaker is actually my mother, so asking her to be a guest speaker, to talk about her own refugee story and the immigration process, was not that difficult,” said Okamura. “Other guest speakers that I am looking to bring to the AAPI Student Union are former IRCO Asian Family Center Director and current Governor’s advisor for DEI, Saporn Chang.”

Of course, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the presidents had to rethink much of how they wanted the Student Union to progress on with their plans and ideas. 

“I’ve had to reorganize all the plans to fit it to Zoom,” said Okamura. “All the ideas over the past year all had to be transferred to the online world. Other predicaments are that being online makes it harder to recruit members and especially because this is a new club, it has only been established this year, it’s been pretty hard to get consistent membership from people at Lakeridge.”

As someone who is Asian American myself, I am also a member of the AAPI Student Union. Even though so far it only has a few members and meetings are on Zoom, the presidents are well on their way to making this Student Union an active and memorable experience for all AAPI students now and in the future.

“I am truly grateful for AAPI Student Union,” said Okamura. “Even though our backgrounds are diverse and we each have a different culture and language, it feels like family.”

If you are someone who identifies as Asian American and/or Pacific Islander, this Student Union is the perfect place for you to get to know people who may share similar experiences as you, as well learn more about your community.