YES Prep Public Schools

As Director of College Counseling at YES Prep Brays Oaks, and co-lead of our annual Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) Summit, I’m thrilled to share my experiences and the profound impact this summit has on our community. 

The APIA Summit provides a unique space to connect and celebrate our shared cultural identities. This year, we centered the event around the theme of sharing our stories, which allowed for personal connections and deeper understanding among participants. 

Building community 

My involvement with the APIA Summit is deeply personal. I remember feeling quite isolated during my own school years due to the lack of fellow Asian peers. When I first attended the APIA Summit years ago, I immediately saw its value—not only in building a community but also in empowering students. 

I first became a summit lead during the 2018-2019 school year but our summit had to be cancelled because of flooding that year. In 2020, our summit again was cancelled because of COVID. So, my first official summit was during the 2020-2021 school year and was completely virtual. Throughout the years I have tried to make sure that each summit is both entertaining and memorable. Some of my main responsibilities have always been around designing the swag items each year and organizing student performances. I have been lucky enough to perform or choreograph a Bollywood dance routine for the past three summits. 

The relevance of this type of programming cannot be overstated. For many young people, especially those from minority backgrounds, finding a community that looks like them and shares similar experiences is crucial. It helps them embrace their identity confidently and significantly enriches their school experience. By hosting the APIA Summit, we provide that vital space for our students. 

Empowering our APIA students 

This event is a turning point for many attendees. Our APIA students see that they have a dedicated support network at YES Prep. This network not only stands with them but also advocates for them. This empowers them to proudly own their identities within our school walls and beyond.  

One of the main impacts I have seen during my time leading the summits is the increased confidence I have seen our APIA students have in embracing and owning their identity at YES Prep even when they are not in the majority. For example, this year’s summit was one of the highest percentage of attendees from Brays Oaks, specifically of the students who identify as APIA. I vividly remember asking some of the same students to come year after year with no luck but this year nearly all of them showed up. I think they have begun to feel more empowered and excited to be unapologetically APIA, which is my main goal from the summit 

Personally, organizing the APIA Summit each May recharges me. Despite it being a hectic time at school, this event brings me immense joy and fulfillment. It’s a reminder of my journey and responsibilities—not just to embrace my own identity, but to foster an environment where my students can do the same. 

Celebrating the diversity of APIA community 

It is essential to recognize and explore the diversity within the APIA community itself. Our summit highlights this richness and complexity, encouraging both learning and unlearning. There are many layers to every culture, and understanding this helps break down stereotypes and foster greater empathy. 

During last year's summit, we had the opportunity to explore the APIA community in Houston first-hand. We partnered with a local tour company and students had the opportunity to either explore the East Asian Community or South Asian Community in our city, including eating local foods and visiting religious sites. This was memorable because students took this as an opportunity to learn about other Asian cultures beyond their own in a deeper, more impactful way.  

This year's summit focused on telling our unique story as a member of the APIA community. Students heard examples from the staff and then had opportunities to craft their own story and share with the whole group. 

As I reflect on the latest summit, I am filled with hope and excitement for the future of our APIA community at YES Prep. By continuing to provide these important spaces, we are building a more inclusive and supportive environment for all our students.  

Here’s to many more years of celebrating and empowering our Asian and Pacific Islander American students and staff! Thank you for joining us on this journey. 

To see more of moments captured at this year's APIA Summit, visit YES Prep's SmugMug.

About Jeevan Moses 

Jeevan Moses graduated from the University of Utah in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in both international studies and anthropology. He joined Teach for America in 2012 and moved to Houston where he became a middle school math teacher at YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary. Jeevan joined the College Initiatives team at Brays in 2014 and became the Director of College Counseling, his current role, in the Fall of 2017. Jeevan’s parents are both originally from Southern India and he has helped lead the APIA Summit since 2019. 

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