Irene Quach is a rising senior at UCLA studying Political Science and Communication Studies with a minor in Asian American Studies. She hopes to attend law school in the future and pursue a career as an attorney. She was an intern with the Communications Unit and Development Unit from September 2018 — March 2019, and then with the Impact Litigation Unit from April — June 2019.
How did you learn about Advancing Justice-LA?
I initially learned about Advancing Justice from a quick Google search. I realized I was interested in the law when I started college and wanted to find a way to serve my own community while also exploring my own interest in law. Advancing Justice popped up as the largest civil and legal rights organization for Asian Americans and I immediately applied to be an intern. Longtime Advancing Justice board member Marie Tan also helped connect me initially.
What prompted you to get involved?
When I started college, I was constantly reminded of the many layers that made up my identity. I am a woman. I am a child of refugees. I am a first-generation college student. I wanted to understand what all those layers meant and what my role would be in uplifting my community. I began taking Asian American studies courses, and there I learned about the model minority myth and how the struggles of my community have been largely ignored because of it. I wanted to know what I could do to combat this.
I wanted to get involved with Advancing Justice because I resonated with the work that they do. They don’t just serve Asian Americans, but also other marginalized communities. They understand the numerous subgroups that make up the Asian American community and strive to reach out and work with all of them. I wanted to become an intern so I could do my part in advancing the organization’s mission.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience as an Advancing Justice-LA volunteer?
The greatest thing I have learned from interning and volunteering with different programs at Advancing Justice is that there is more than one way to serve your community.
As a Development Intern, I helped to organize the donations that help keep Advancing Justice running. As a Communications Intern, I created content for Open Enrollment for Covered California. Covered California is an affordable health insurance option that is available for individuals and families to enroll in during a certain window of time each year, and the content I created helped to spread awareness of when and how to apply, and combat the notion many families often have that they will not qualify.
I also created content for Domestic Violence Awareness month and conducted research on hate crimes that specifically targeted Asian Americans — drawing light to issues that affect our community that may often be overlooked.
As an intern for the Impact Litigation Unit, I conducted calculations that reflected the economic reality that many Southeast Asian nail salon workers face, to be used in creating educational materials for workers regarding their rights to a safe and legal workplace. Oftentimes nail salon workers are underpaid and taken advantage of by their employers, and we hope to use these calculations to bolster our advocacy efforts to combat this.
Through my various experiences during my internship, I learned that serving my community doesn’t always require me to physically go into the community to organize and mobilize individuals. Sometimes it just means using my unique skills to contribute in any way that I can.
Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly tell about your experience volunteering?
Whether I was conducting research about domestic violence, hate crimes, or conditions for nail salon workers, it surprised me how difficult it was to find data that was specifically about the Asian American community. Though we are the fastest-growing minority group in the country, it seemed to me as though available data seemed to skim over our struggles. Through my attempts to research, I began to understand my role as someone who will soon enter the workforce. No matter what segment of society or in what industry, diversity and representation are necessary, and I have to advocate for it.
What advice would you give other individuals who want to participate in volunteer or pro bono work at the organization?
Do it. It’s easy to talk about uplifting your community or serving your community, but it’s another thing entirely to give up your time to do it. My work at Advancing Justice always felt rewarding because I felt that I was actively making a difference — no matter how small or big the task I accomplished. Volunteering or doing pro bono work will also bring you a sense of fulfillment because your individual skillsets and knowledge can often be useful and will be appreciated.