In Virtual School, Asian Student Union Emerges as a New Voice


Wilde Lake’s ASU spread the word of their Lunar New Year celebration via Instagram at the end of February.

The Asian Student Union, founded this year by Danielle Sumaryo and Sajana Vigna-McLaughlin, advocates for the 8 percent of Wilde Lake students who identify as Asian, but it also provides a much needed way to connect in a virtual school environment. 

ASU President Danielle Sumaryo, a sophomore at Wilde Lake, explains how she was inspired to start the club. “With the racist rhetoric of the Trump presidency, I felt it encouraged many people to believe racism against Asian-Americans was justified,” she says. “I knew that I needed to start the ASU so we could spread awareness of the racism Asian-Americans face.” While clubs like Hispanic Voices and the Black Student Achievement Program have thrived for many years, the Asian Student Union is the first at Wilde Lake for Asian students. 

Asian Student Unions can be found at many high schools and universities across the nation, tackling issues like the increase in violence against Asians. After the recent incidents in Columbia targeting Asian-owned restaurants, Sumaryo explains that the club has been working with the Wilde Lake Social Justice Club to, “…encourage students to support Asian-owned businesses,” including the restaurants affected by the robberies. 

Sajana Vigna-McLaughlin, the Vice President of ASU, speaks on the mission of the group. “Through ASU, we hope to address prejudicial stereotyping and foster inclusion,” she says. Vigna-McLaughlin acknowledges racist stereotypes perpetuated by the media, and how they have affected Asian-Americans. “The media facilitates the model minority myth, and if someone does not fit within this they are deemed unintelligent, lazy, and invalid. This causes individuals to internalize the stereotype, and it pressures them.” The ASU aims to address the harmful effects of these stereotypes by creating infographics and breaking down why they are damaging, as well as listing media created by and starring Asian artists that do not contain negative stereotypes. 

ASU meetings typically take place every other Wednesday after school. Meetings begin with introductions from the leaders and an icebreaker question for attendees. The club has only a few members since they just started in January, but club members are constantly working together to bring in new participants via social media posts. 

The ASU also plans and hosts events like a Lunar New Year celebration, fundraiser nights, and even an anime movie night. Through planning these events, Vigna-McLaughlin explains the positive impact of strengthening culture in the ASU. “It’s especially great because there are so many different experiences, and yet we are still sharing connections,” she says. 

Despite the challenges of virtual school and staying connected from home, members of the ASU have shown that the true spirit of Wilde Lake’s diverse Ohana remains undeterred. “In our club, we talk of building deeper bonds and the importance of a sense of community,” Vigna-McLaughlin says, “…and that you are never alone.”