Joyce Yao, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in health policy and management with a minor in urban studies and planning, is a student leader active in addressing issues of social inequality and community power. For the last two and a half years she has worked closely with the Community Empowerment Fund, a local organization that cultivates opportunities, assets, and communities that support the alleviation of homelessness and poverty. She has also been significantly involved in service and community engagement work through the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History, the Student Health Action Coalition, the Asian American Working Group, the Campus Y and the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Yao is currently working with a team of student at Carolina and Duke to organize a national summit of student activists doing anti-poverty work.
My experiences in community advocacy have together helped commit me to work that uplifts community voices and cultivates innovative solutions on the local level. The Community Empowerment Fund showed me the power of community-centered work, why community should matter most to me, and how I could honor that passion. The Community Empowerment Fund is about bringing together people of all backgrounds to remind us that efforts to support fellow community members must be human-centered, and that everyone should be able to be a part of a community that cares about them. I have seen this community change lives, from finding Members crisis housing and promoting affordable housing bonds at town meetings, to hosting events where Members share their art with the community. Community is why and how Members and Advocates show up daily to challenge dehumanizing systems. Every aspect of the Community Empowerment Fund's community has transformed my worldview and informed my moral compass, shaped by personal experiences and relationships. With my education in community power, I cherish community building roles in organizations that allow me to cultivate meaningful relationships with community members and organizations for a shared mission.