Kailani Vang, a junior Social Work major at Bethel University, is a student with outstanding leadership qualities and a commitment to address social justice issues both on campus and in the broader community. Kailani works with leaders at the City of Saint Paul to advance racial equity. At the direction of staff in the Mayor’s Office and Human Resources, Kailani has conducted research into pay equity initiatives at local jurisdictions across the country, drafted several proclamations and resolutions, and provided key communications support for city-wide and community events. Kailani has a genuineness when contributing to her academic cohort, building community, inclusiveness, active learning, and citizenship. She participates in classroom discussions in ways that stimulate the sharing of different points of view with respect for the capacities and assets of others, thereby fostering critical thinking and empowerment ideologies when confronting contemporary issues. She consistently strives to promote belonging and well-being within the greater community.
As a social work major, I have learned that serving others is more than the act of giving but also the act of partnership. As I pursue the mindset of life-long learning, I have unlearned the concept of being a hero. Instead, I want to work alongside my neighbors. With that, my approach to addressing root causes of social issues is to share the stories of those unheard. There is great power in the act of sharing stories. Humans are empathetic, emotional, and need to share their experiences. We need to share our stories, our neighbors’ stories, and the stories of those we have hurt throughout history. Gatherings, journals, and artwork are overlooked, but they are powerful. As an Asian American whose parents immigrated during the secret war, the stories of my Hmong people shape my views greatly. My Hmong people have only had the power to share stories with their children. Yet, we have come so far and remembered so much. As a believer in Christ, a Hmong American, and a woman, I think that social issues need to be solved with intentionality. This begins with creating a platform for stories to be shared and heard.