Out of thousands of worthy individuals who serve others I am truly humbled to be recognized as a White House Champion of Change. I have benefited greatly as a participant who received much in terms of mentorship, training and counsel. I continue to receive much inspiration and encouragement even today as I seek to serve others.
The Suns originated as a neighborhood sports organization which competed with similar AAPI organizations across the United States and Canada. The Suns' athletic programs have taught the fundamentals of sports, while instilling applicable life values. I was a youth who grew up in the program. Since I began leading the Philadelphia Suns, I have maintained its athletic pursuits and expanded the program to encompass other areas, such as: intentional mentorship, cultural education and service to the community. Much of what we focus on is the development of character qualities that make a difference in any community. Since its founding, the Suns have empowered youth to participate in civic engagement by hosting, serving and supporting area events, such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and our bi-annual community cleanup. Also, each year we award college scholarships to deserving members of our community.
My Suns involvement is inextricably linked to my full-time work as the Outreach Director of a community center. Primarily, my work is to build a program that offers holistic programs to care for the local AAPI community in various stages of life. In meeting the demands of a very needy community, we offer English as a Second Language classes, preschool and kindergarten classes, an after-school program, summer camp, SAT-prep classes and translation/caring services.
Many of our program’s youth come from hard-working, immigrant families. When I was young, my parents were focused on providing for the family and did not have much extra time to be part of my scholastic nor extra-curricular activities. This dynamic is still so prevalent today as limited parental involvement and guidance have left youth to fend for themselves. They have to make choices and decisions without the support, accountability and encouragement at a very impressionable time in their lives. There is a battle for the hearts of the youth with temptations such as gangs, drugs, promiscuity and other at-risk behaviors. The Suns offers supports to encourage youth and seeks to steer them toward more positive actions. We want to develop wholesome character qualities that they will hold onto for the rest of their lives.
The Suns impact in my life has inspired me to return to our community -- one I have been blessed to be part of.
Harry Leong is the president of the Philadelphia Suns, a volunteer-led, youth organization, which focuses on community building by offering educational, cultural, social, athletic, and service opportunities for Asian American youth.
Check out the Philadelphia Suns' "What's Your Story" video submission: