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ECAASU 2010 Students participate in a bonding activity

This weekend, the Pan-Asian American Community House will not celebrate its 10th anniversary alone. Alumni are flocking back to Penn to join students in recognizing 10 years of programming, advising, leadership and Asian-American pride.

Hoa Duong, a 2001 College alumna, claims she never planned on attending Homecoming. “Because it’s the PAACH 10-year,” Duong said. “That’s the reason I’m coming back. I’m completely thrilled that PAACH still exists, that it’s growing and thriving.”

While a Friday night dinner will be open only to invited alumni, students will join the festivities on Saturday with a social reception, remarks from Penn President Amy Gutmann and mini-reunions with signature PAACH programs.

“I’m really, really excited for the 10-year,” said College senior Bonny Tsang, who is involved with the Asian Pacific American Leadership Initiative, Asian Pacific Student Coalition and the Asian American Studies Program Summit — all groups within PAACH.

Many alumni also share Tsang’s enthusiasm. Edith Chao, a 2010 College alumna, will take days off from her California job with Google to fly back for the anniversary. Chao helped bring the East Coast Asian American Student Union Conference to Penn during her senior year.

“We just wanted to showcase Penn,” Chao said. And with over 1,400 conference attendees, she certainly did. She recalls the opening ceremony as “the most exciting moment of my four years at Penn.”

Chao is not the only alumnus whose defining Penn moments occurred within the PAACH community. Ben Alisuag, a 2009 College graduate, was APSC chairman when ASAM was threatened with budget cuts.

Alisuag was part of a student rally that extended to national organizations such as the NAACP and the Organization of Chinese Americans.

“In less than a week, we had over 2,500 supporters on an online petition and national recognition from newspapers and blogs,” Alisuag wrote in an e-mail.

The student rescue of the ASAM program in the fall of 2008 was described by Alisuag as “the PAACH moment that I will forever remember.”

Duong was APSC chairwoman during the founding of PAACH, a period characterized by “electricity in the air,” she said. At that time, Asian Americans made up approximately 25 percent of the student body, and were demanding support from the University.

After months of raising awareness and fostering discussion, Duong held a speakout on College Green, which earned the Asian American community a spot on Fox News, as well as in the then-Penn President Judith Rodin’s office.

The rally featured speeches by student leaders demanding that the University create a resource center for the Asian American community. “We made a declaration of what we wanted from the University and had all the student leaders sign it,” Duong said.

After the speakout, approximately 20 students crowded into Rodin’s office to present their idea, which she subsequently agreed to consider.

The intersection of students and alumni this weekend will reflect the strong sense of community and heritage in the PAACH network. “For me, the beauty of PAACH does not reside in the fact that you could take naps or print for free, but rather, it shines with its community and diversity of function,” 2010 Engineering alumna and former ECAASU Director Carlin Yuen wrote in an e-mail.

College senior Joanna Wu found a new appreciation for this community while looking back through Daily Pennsylvanian accounts of the 1999 speakout, 2000 founding, and 2008 ASAM budget cuts. “It opened my eyes a lot,” Wu said. “It was really cool looking back through the growth of PAACH.”

Swathi Bonda, a 2008 Wharton graduate, wrote in an e-mail that despite PAACH’s monumental progress and expansion, “in the most important ways, it remains the same.”

“It’s a space that embodies family and home to so many students and alumni,” Bonda added.

This is particularly true for 2004 College graduate Shiella Cervantes, who never left. “It starts to feel homey,” said Cervantes, who stayed at Penn to become associate director of PAACH. “I found that hard to leave.”

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