Ashley Hong

Hometown, Palos Verdes, CA
I expected NCLC to be the traditional summer camp, consisting of leadership and public speaking games on the grass, bonding over lunchbox stories, and devouring cup ramen. And while lunch box stories were shared and cup ramen was devoured, I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the issues we dealt with and learned about. Seeing how everyone in the conference, be it the speaker, counselors, or students, was affected to differing degrees by and held (sometimes) contrasting opinions on the same issues really exemplified that although we are one community, there is so much diversity in thought and experiences among each and every one of us. Getting the chance to hear from such passionate and hardworking filmmakers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, news producers, authors, and NASA engineers (just to name a few) was truly empowering and cemented in me the duty to further the growth of the Korean American community, by shattering the “bamboo ceiling” and helping those who are ostracized and struggling. The best part was that every speaker blew me away in a different way — through his or her incredible creativity, adventurous spirit, unshakable grit, infectious humor, humility, and positivity — had something new to say. As for the students and counselors I spent the five days with, there was an undeniable connection I felt with the group. Whether that was because we’re all Korean Americans or they were just fantastic people, I’m not sure — perhaps both — but the shared experience of telling our stories and watching the K-drama, “Kingdom,” together every night instilled in me a sense of comfort and community. Thank you to the amazing counselors and students for being so relatable and compassionate, and thank you to KAC for the network of peers and professionals I connected to through NCLC!