As a child growing up in Hollywood, CA, Alyssa Chang has always appreciated the movie and television industry in her backyard. She was imbued with a love for storytelling, which motivated Alyssa, now a high school junior, to give back to her community by finding great story tellers to talk to kids in the community about career choices.
From her own experience immigrating to the U.S. as a child and growing up in a bilingual household that speaks English and Japanese, she saw the impact that career decisions can make when concepts are introduced early to young people. “My family is a family of immigrants,” she said. “I immigrated to this country at a young age. Because of my lack of language skills, I had been insecure in myself.”
Alyssa still remembers her first Career Day experience when she was a fourth-grader.
“I was touched by the variety of speakers, the variety of their careers, and the way they communicated to my classmates in their own words, in their own languages, and in a way that all of them could understand,” she says of the experience.
That encounter would later lead Alyssa to form a special group as a ninth-grader at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES), a Title I public school in the Los Angeles public school system, the largest in the nation, and where the majority of the student population qualifies for free and reduced lunch.
Alyssa created the Studio City Youth Chamber of Commerce (SCYCC) to organize and deliver career exposure for young people. Alyssa’s “For a Day” programs introduce middle and high school students to various professional fields including medicine, law, business, journalism and entertainment. During the course of a 4-6 hour program, invited guests speak with students about their personal experiences in order to help students learn about hard work, dedication, positive influences, and to help them decide what they might want to be in life.
Her passion to help find bilingual and bicultural mentors for at-risk youths resulted in “Lawyer for a Day” and “Judge for a Day” events for low-income English-learners, and the overall suite of SCYCC activities has impacted more than 150 youths to date.
“Everyone should make an effort to give back to the community,” Alyssa says. “Immigrants have made this country great, and they can play a role in continuing to make it great. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to start giving back by volunteering in your community.”