The month of May kicks off Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and I am overjoyed to be writing about what this special month means to me. I think it is amazing that we have a month that celebrates the incredible achievements of leaders who come from Asian American and Pacific Islander backgrounds, as it shows the younger generations that someone Asian American achieved a goal that they thought was never possible. For me, inspiration is at the heart of many AAPI individuals’ stories and is what continues to drive me every day.

My grandparents came here almost 50 years ago from India, leaving behind everything they had ever known for a life in America. Their bravery in the face of the unknown continues to inspire me. Although not a journey I made, their trip has instilled values of perseverance and compassion into every action I complete because I am grateful for the life I have been born into.

AAPI Heritage Month showcases individuals but emphasizes community, which is so important to me as my tale is not one that is new or unheard of but one that is reflected in the lives of leaders around the world. Like a tapestry woven from threads of diverse origins, Asian Americans in the United States bring together a rich mosaic of cultures, each strand contributing to the vibrant fabric of our society. Just as a tapestry showcases the intricate beauty of its individual threads, we should celebrate and uplift those among us who are weaving the threads of change and progress, enriching the collective narrative of our community. AAPI Month does just that and it gives hope to the younger generations that someone who looks like them, eats the same food as them, and wears the same traditional clothes as them is breaking barriers and paving the path for future success.

In my personal life, I rely on the ideas of community and togetherness from my Asian American heritage. Being at the top of my class and serving as National Honor Society president and president of Speech and Debate club, is not about placing bullet points on a resume or just holding a title. It’s about me wanting to make my relatives proud by drawing on their ideals to create better communities through the positions I am privileged to occupy.

Despite my personal viewpoint, it is becoming more and more evident of the divide that has been occurring between cultures and perspectives nationwide. In Asian American families, and specifically in Hinduism, we emphasize the idea of togetherness and family, also known as “Saha” in Sanskrit. With these ideals in mind, I have made continuous efforts to bridge the gaps between races, generations, and cultures. Hosting meetings in our school that allow for open communication between multiple generations, giving speeches and performances that showcase my culture, and teaching religious classes to younger students has been how I work to advance a stronger bond between my culture and those around me. My grandparents started from the ground up working to build the communities that I now live in, and I will continue to assist those communities for all they have given me.

In the end, AAPI Month serves as a reminder of the incredible job we have done yet also the job left to do. Making up more than 20.6 million people in the U.S., Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders compose an intricate and beautiful array of perspectives, ideologies, and colorful views that need to be shared. My grandmother, aka “Nani,” continuously reminds me: “We made it through hard journeys to create happy endings.” AAPI Month recognizes the work we have put in and drives us to not only strive for those happy endings but create opportunities for us to provide them for others, too.

About the Author

Jaidin Upadhyaya is a senior at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, TX, and an NHS Scholarship finalist.