In the summer of 1998, the Chinese American Summer Internship Coalition (CASIC), the Organization of Chinese Americans -- Greater Los Angeles Chapter (OCA-GLA), Chinese Americans United for Self-Empowerment (CAUSE), the Chinese American Citizens Alliance -- Los Angeles Lodge (C.A.C.A), and Vision 21 joined together to create a multi-collaborative internship program for students in the San Gabriel Valley. As the intership progressed, the partnership's mission expanded as they became aware of the precarious position of youth in the American political process.
The coalition believed that young people were essentially an invisible group ignored by politicians due the the political apathy and low voter turnout of young citizens. As a way to address this situation, CASIC interns created the idea for a group that would actively reach out to students who have historically been disenfranchised.
In the summer of 1998, CASIC intern Ahn Tran and Levin Sy of APIA Vote! convened a meeting at Monterey Park’s city hall with Mayor Judy Chu along with 25-30 high school students from both San Gabriel and Mark Keppel high schools. During the meeting, the students viewed a video about voter empowerment among youth and Ahn presented the students with the idea of forming civic engagement clubs on their high school campuses. The high school students were very receptive and began planning ways to get administrative approval from their schools. The students established "SAVE" programs on the San Gabriel and Mark Keppel high school campuses in 1998 and third chapter was founded on the Rosemead high school campus in 2000.
The actual name “SAVE” was developed and contributed by the CASIC interns during several of their meetings. Adopting models from other organizations, SAVE’s original constitution was written by the CASIC interns and adopted by the high school students as part of their own charter.
Under the guidance of UCLA student Anh Tran, SAVE concentrated on voter registration, lunch with local elected officials, and inviting guest speakers to speak about community issues in its first two years. These members also assisted in the grassroots efforts of local officials such as Judy Chu, Hilda Solis, and Ben Wong. Also, SAVE participated in the 2000 Census by helping the Bureau publicize the importance of documenting correct information on the forms. These SAVE-sponsored activities were aimed at mobilizing the member base by showing to the students that they can still effect change, even though they cannot yet vote.The activities, though, were not limited to engagement projects as Anh and the SAVE officer corps also promoted political education. During its first two years, SAVE initiated the groundwork to develop an exit poll survey as well as workshops dedicated to technical assistance. Chapters also held their own activities like “Law Day” at SGHS where SAVE members met with local superior court judges and sat in some court proceedings.
SAVE also partnered with many of the local non-profits in the San Gabriel Valley, like APIA Vote, NALEO, and Arsalyn (led by then Program Director, Suk Rhee). These groups provided SAVE with funding and personnel to accomplish its mission and also helped the fledging organization develop a “SAVE Manual” regarding new-chapter creation.
Anh left the organization at the end of 2000 to pursue other avenues of opportunity. The SAVE Officer corps took on Anh’s workload with Mark Keppel’s Chapter President, Jonathan Yung, leading the way. During this time, the chapters reorganized their standing objectives and projects as one of their major goals, the Census, was nearing an end. It was also during this time that the chapters held their first officers’ elections. As a result, Jonathan Yung, Thuy Nguyen, and Jaclyn Ly became Presidents to MKHS, SGHS and RHS respectively.
By the summer of 2001, SAVE lost contact with many of its founding partners like APIA Vote! and Arsalyn.
However, after much hard work and countless hours in the fall of 2001 and spring of 2002, the new officer corps was able to rebuild the organization and improve on the structure of the organization as a whole. The SAVE officers drafted an organizational constitution that united all the existing chapters and reestablished ties with Arsalyn, now under the Directorship of Christian Lindke.
The Arsalyn Program saw the reestablished ties with SAVE as an opportunity to take an existing core of exciting civic engagement clubs and expand the number of member schools, broaden the mission, and provide regular civic engagement activities for the member clubs.
In order to achieve these goals, the Arsalyn Program worked with the SAVE board to create the Arsalyn Youth Forums program, which now has participating clubs throughout the San Gabriel Valley. The clubs that participate in Arsalyn Youth Forums range from SAVE clubs and the Future Politicians Association clubs to Youth 2 Youth clubs and campus Student Government. The goal of the Arsalyn Youth Forums program is to provide existing clubs with additional programming, that is student lead and student driven, beyond that provided by their individual campus clubs.
Each year, Arsalyn Youth Forums sponsors the following activities:
- Townhall Discussion Forums
- A Coordinated Voter Registration Drive
- A Discussion Forum on a Southern California University Campus
- Non-Partisan Election Related Phone Banks
- A Lunch With Leaders
- An Annual Trip to Sacramento