Acceptance and Support: Two Keys to Celebrating AAPI Month

The Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is observed in May, and Stetson’s APAC is excited to bring awareness to campus.

As students prepare to move off campus for the summer, the arrival of May brings Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a special commemoration for members of the university’s Asian Pacific American Coalition. 

The multicultural student organization, known as APAC, works to promote awareness and knowledge of Asian and Pacific Island cultures. The group hosts meetings, discussions and events throughout the year such as its popular Lunar New Year celebration, generally held on the Stetson Green.  

For Philosophy major Asmaa Ali ’26, APAC’s director of marketing and public relations, the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month provides “a large sense of community for those who struggle with their cultural identity.” 

Pacific Islander Heritage Month provides “a large sense of community for those who struggle with their cultural identity.”

In addition, it allows “knowledge, support and awareness to be spread among not only those who have been affected by racial injustice for simply being Asian or a Pacific Islander, but also for those who are willing to learn and become an ally who can offer hands and acceptance to us,” said Ali, who is of Asian and West Indian descent.

For the group’s co-president, Kristinelynn Rodriguez, a Filipina and a Molecular and Cellular Biology major, the group has provided community.

Rodriguez ’25 says that through APAC she has found her “sense of belonging here on campus.” Coupling her experience with the organization with her minor in Anthropology, Rodriguez has expanded her understanding of varied Asian cultures and traditions. 

Wenxena Spencer ’25, a World Languages and Culture major with an Asian Studies minor, uses her experience in APAC and other student organizations to build bridges, whether on campus or among cultures.

“People think that if they have a different culture or they speak a different language, they won’t have anything to share or bond over,” said Spencer, who is of West Indian descent. “What I found in my studies is it’s actually not that different. There are a lot more similarities than there are differences.”

Events focus on educating, elevating and edifying.

APAC’s events focus on educating, elevating and edifying. In addition to holiday celebrations such as Lunar New Year or Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, APAC also holds regular meetings and Chai Chats — discussions held over boba tea and food. 

“Last year we held a vigil for the victims of the California shootings,” Rodriguez said.

The group combats hate with acceptance, as Ali mentioned that APAC attempts “to promote a safe space for our members, and even the non-members, on campus.”

In 2023, APAC members lent their efforts to Make Us Visible as it promoted the passage of House Bill 1537, which implemented AAPI history instruction into Florida’s K-12 curricula.

The Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is observed through the month of May and APAC is excited to spread awareness
Erin Doggette, PhD

APAC leaders continue to look for community outreach opportunities. Last year, the group participated in a career summit held by Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, a Philippines-based nonprofit that combats poverty, in partnership with the University of Central Florida’s Filipino Student Association.

With the school year closing, Erin Doggette, PhD, director of Diversity and Inclusion, is helping APAC’s leaders identify ways to commemorate AAPI Month, even as the campus begins to vacate for the summer. 

“We’re here for the multicultural student organizations,” Doggette said. “We want them to know we recognize them. We see you.” Each month in the Tri-C, “we’re adding that additional touch to make students feel appreciated and loved.”

The Tri-C put up decorations to observe the AAPI Heritage Month.

For more information about AAPI Month or APAC’s activities, follow APAC on Instagram or Facebook.

-Cheri Henderson