Hi! I’m Chengfeng Shao. I just graduated from Boston Latin School in the Class of 2016, and I’ll be attending Columbia in the fall. I’m working with sponsor Brian Golden this summer at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, specifically in Housing Compliance. I’ve been drawn to public service, and the Ward Fellowship, by a set of experiences both rooted in my identity as a second generation Chinese American, as well as in my involvement in my community.
My background as a second gen Chinese American has informed my passion for public service in several crucial ways. One facet is that there’s simply been a lack of Asian American representatives in public service. Though representation has been improving with those such as Council President Michelle Wu entering the spotlight, I believe there’s a ton of progress left to be made—both in creating greater minority representation, and in shattering the stereotype that Asian Americans are suited—and only suited—to fulfill more technical, less public roles in society. And there’s an issue of silence in the Asian American community as well; while there are many exceptions, I have felt as though the majority of my peers and elders in the community is inclined to stay silent in public forums about injustice—or to withdraw involvement from such forums completely. In my school community, I have seen a lack of involvement from Asian Americans in the wake of the events at Ferguson, despite student organizations such as BLS B.L.A.C.K. holding after-school discussions; I have seen a lack of involvement in the Black at BLS movement as well. I myself have been guilty of a lack of public involvement, and that lack of public involvement is something I want to combat.
But my identity as a Chinese American is hardly the only factor that has driven me to be interested in public service. From a young age, my father encouraged me to watch the news on a nightly basis, to keep myself informed and interested. Around the dinner table, I would watch my family discuss a range of problems, from upcoming elections to social justice issues—and these conversations among my parents, my older brother, and me would last long after we finished eating. As I moved up into high school, friends encouraged me to join the Speech and Debate team, which took that interest in policy, social justice, and global affairs that my father had cultivated in me and allowed me to channel it into research, writing, and effective argumentation. And while I’m not sure where my career will take me—hopefully into the public sphere, in one way or another—I want to continue to work this passion of mine.