On June 1, 2014, Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC) held the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of its Leadership Institute. With funding from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the APIDC Leadership Institute was established to develop young adults to become leaders and advocates for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with disabilities. Raymond Kwong, Daphna Patel and Joanne Lee of Pasadena City College, Kevin Phung from Rio Hondo College and Silkvia To from California State University, Los Angeles completed a 15-hour training program over three weekends which covered the history of the disability rights and the Asian American civil rights movements and leadership qualities, and skills in coalition-building, communications with the media, fundraising, networking, advocacy and establishing and running a non-profit organization. Speakers included California State Controller John Chiang, who gave the participants tips on effective public speaking and provided feedback on their speeches, public relations professional Trisha Murakawa, who led role-playing exercises to help the participants improve their communication with potential funders and supporters, and youth and community organizer Bryan Takeda, who imparted his experience and knowledge about coalition-building. Each of the participants was required to come to the Leadership Institute with an initiative related to disabilities that they wanted to work on during and after the leadership training.
At the graduation ceremony, the graduates together with their families, friends and teachers were addressed by Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and Guy Leemhuis, Commissioner on the California Commission on Disabilities Access and former APIDC Board Member. Each of the graduates were then given the opportunity to reflect on their experience in the Leadership Institute. They spoke about how the leadership training gave them more confidence and inspired them to do more to advocate for themselves and others with disabilities. They also mentioned how they came away with more skills and ideas to develop their initiatives, and expressed appreciation for the newfound community of fellow advocates, friends and mentors who they can now reach out to for support and advice.