May marks the start of Asian American & Pacific Islander(AAPI) Heritage Month. In 1992, Congress passed a law to formally designate May as Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The month of May was specifically chosen as it commemorates the migration of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The rich history of our Asian American & Pacific Islander family is full of resilience, perseverance, determination, and strength. At KIPP DC, our AAPI teammates play a critical and integral role in supporting the success of all of our students. We are proud to highlight the stories of Lawrence Chien and Sagari Rao as well as the work they do to empower our students to reach their dreams.
Sagari Rao, History Teacher, KIPP DC College Preparatory
As a child of Indian immigrant parents, I often felt like I had to meet specific criteria to be “Indian-enough.” I was considered to be a black sheep because I wasn’t skilled in math and science, didn’t love spicy food, and would much rather listen to the latest Green Day album than a Bollywood track. As I’ve grown and matured, I’ve learned to embrace my nuanced Indian-American identity, and no longer feel like the odd one out marching to the beat of my own drum. About three years after college, unhappy at my public relations job, I decided to take the plunge and make a career switch to education – another move that made many in my parent’s community look at me quizzically.
Teaching at KIPP DC has brought me the most joy I’ve experienced in my career, mostly because of the relationships I build with students every year. Helping my students, especially those who feel confused about their own unique identities like I did in my teenage years, realize the beauty of embracing that uniqueness is what I strive to do as a teacher every day!
Lawrence Chien, Data Analyst, KIPP DC Headquarters
I was born in Monterey Park, California and spent my formative years on the subtropical island Taiwan. I finished my K-12 education in northern mainland China before returning to the United States for college. After my undergraduate studies in Colorado, I moved around the United States and had various focal points in my career. I worked as a lab tech, studied epidemiology in grad school, taught high school and middle school math, and finally transitioned to working at KIPP DC as a data analyst supporting educators in organizing, synthesizing, and visualizing data.
My experience growing up and interacting with ethnic Chinese people in three different places afforded me insight into the unifying power of shared ethnic identity, and beyond that, allowed me to see the wonderful differences that lie even within a single ethnic group. I learned that identity labels may be helpful at times to establish shared connections. However, I believe we are each truly greater than the sum of our parts. I seek to continue to push myself to examine what makes me unique, and despite being a hopeless recluse, I also wish to appreciate and understand the lovely blended individuals that I interact with throughout life.