The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

C.J. Henrich '24 RGLP Reflection

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Back in high school, I barely had any opportunities to have diverse experiences. I went to a school that was 93% white, which was a clearly limited environment to learn about other people’s experiences. Sure, we were an interesting town, juxtaposing city landscapes and farming communities. But, honestly there is little you can do to escape that overwhelming whiteness. But, my senior year of high school, I made an entirely new friend group that was majority POC and dominated by queer women.

It genuinely opened my eyes on how the world works by providing me the opportunity to enjoy experiences I have not had before. I celebrated Hanukkah for the first time. I practiced how to use chopsticks to eat Pad Thai. I even realized how much society does not focus on the diversity in East Asian communities, limiting focus to a few countries. To be more specific, my home region has a strong Southeast Asian community, with Thai, Filipino, Bangladeshi, and Vietnamese communities being common. Only through these friendships did I ultimately realize how important these communities were to my home region, living together and making such a strong part of our culture overall.

I would not be the person I am today without being friends with them. I would not be the happy queer man that I am if they were not there to support me. I would not be as open as a person if they did not treasure me as an individual.. I would not be as willing to pursue my dreams if they were not there to make my life feel valid along the way. To be honest, I do not know if I can ever make friends as good as them ever again. But, that does not matter honestly. It feels good to have such queer, POC, and female influences where I have learned more about community, gender, and intersectionality than I ever had an opportunity before. Because at the end of the day, we support each other now and will continue to do so just because we can and that is all that matters.

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