CAUSE Board Chair Charlie Woo and Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees Member Mike Eng pose with the CAUSE Leadership Academy summer interns.
CAUSE Board Chair Charlie Woo and Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees Member Mike Eng pose with the CAUSE Leadership Academy summer interns.

Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE) held the 24th Leadership Academy Kickoff Luncheon on June 19 at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Eight interns will serve in legislative offices in Los Angeles and two interns will work in public offices in Washington, D.C. The interns will participate in a nine-week program and will develop the skills and network that are vital for a career in public office, public service, and community advocacy.

“In the coming weeks, we will make sure that [you’ll] meet some of the history makers, people that broke through glass ceilings, people that you could read about in history books,” said CAUSE Board Chair Charlie Woo during his remarks at the event. “The reason we want you to do that is because you guys better get used to it because we expect you to [one day be] part of that process, to shape our community, shape this region, shape the next generation, which direction this country is going.”

Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees member Mike Eng delivered a heartfelt keynote speech for the event. Along with his encouraging words for the interns, he discussed the program’s value of developing young people’s skills in public speaking and networking.

“That’s very important because I won’t be here forever and I want to see more young people run for office, I want to see more people become president of their organization, and if we don’t train people to run for office or to become a business leader or non-profit leader, we will definitely lose the continuity of our leadership,” said Eng, who previously served in the State Assembly and on the Monterey Park City Council.

Takuya Maeda is a rising senior at Emory University, where he is studying history. For the summer, he will be interning at the office of State Controller Betty Yee. He is excited to participate in the program and hopes to “learn what it means to be an Asian American elected official and how the work that goes on in public policy offices in Los Angeles affects the communities in the region.”

“I think the CAUSE Academy will help me achieve my goals in the future in two different ways,” Maeda said. “Firstly, with the connections that I will build in the area and secondly the hands-on work I will be able to do in the Asian Pacific Islander community in Los Angeles.

“For me, as a first-generation immigrant, it was about exploring the long-standing leaders and institutions that previous generations have built up in the Los Angeles area, and so CAUSE is a great opportunity to gain some connections and networks and also to be able to do some hands-on work within the community.

“Sharing my own experiences and my own struggles, I think, will hopefully open up the door for others to embrace their identity and challenge narratives that have been imposed on them.”

Maeda is currently studying American history and completing an honors thesis on the memory and politics of the redress movement, which resulted in payments and an apology from the government to Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II.

He is a founding member of Asian American Pacific Islander Student Activists; former summer fellow for New Sector Alliance; former research assistant for the Emory University History Department; former teaching intern for the East Harlem School of Exodus House; and volunteer for the Center for Pan-Asian Community Services.

He sees himself becoming heavily involved in social justice and advocacy work in the future.

The luncheon was an opportunity for the incoming class of interns to introduce themselves to the community, share their motivations for participating in this program, and discuss their career ambitions and how they hope to impact the Asian Pacific American community.

Since its inception in 1991, the CAUSE Leadership Academy has prepared elite student leaders to be in the forefront of the legislative arena. This program is especially dedicated to developing leadership skills for students who are interested in exploring a career in public office, public service, or community advocacy, which includes becoming an elected or appointed official.

Takuya Maeda speaks on what he hopes to accomplish for the summer at the CAUSE Leadership Academy Kickoff Luncheon on June 19.
Takuya Maeda speaks on what he hopes to accomplish for the summer at the CAUSE Leadership Academy Kickoff Luncheon on June 19.

In addition to Maeda, the Los Angeles interns are:

Elaine Hang, rising freshman at Dickinson University

Jonathan Yedahm Lee, rising sophomore at Pomona College

Rhea Manglani, rising junior at Byrn Mawr College

Lianne May, rising junior at Vassar College

Kristie Sham, rising freshman at UC Berkeley

Lauren Triolo, rising sophomore at Columbia University

Tianyi “Tesia” Zhou, rising sophomore at UCLA

The Los Angeles program includes:

• Internship in a legislative office

• Weekly speaker forums with community and civic leaders

• Group project

• Airfare sponsored by Southwest Airlines

• $1,000 stipend (upon satisfactory completion of program)

This year, CAUSE has expanded the Leadership Academy to include a Washington, D.C. component for the first time ever. The D.C. interns are Samantha Gomes, rising freshman at John Hopkins University, and Taylor Huang-Boutelle, Rising Senior at UC Santa Cruz.

The D.C. program includes: Internship in a public office; weekly speaker forums with community and civic leaders; group policy paper; airfare sponsored by Southwest Airlines; $1,500 housing stipend; $1,000 stipend (upon satisfactory completion of program).

The CAUSE Leadership Academy is supported by Southern California Edison, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Southwest Airlines, Chinese American Citizens Alliance – Los Angeles, Chinese American Engineers and Scientists Association of Southern California, Nelson Tan, and Peter Woo.

CAUSE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan, community-based organization with a mission to advance the political empowerment of the Asian Pacific American community through nonpartisan voter registration and education, community outreach, and leadership development. Its offices are located in Pasadena. For more information, visit

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