By Darryl Gangloff
Annie Dong '23 is a leader in the Pan-Asian community through her tireless advocacy work at Hotchkiss and beyond. Her efforts were recognized at a national level when she received the prestigious Changemaker of the Year award from nonprofit Act to Change at a gala in Washington, D.C., on May 18. The organization strives to end bullying for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth.
During her time at Hotchkiss, Annie founded the first Pan-Asian Affinity Group and mentored younger students to become their own leaders. In an effort to build community and inclusion, she led a project through which Pan-Asian students anonymously shared their personal experiences, which were read out loud during an All-School meeting and a faculty meeting. She served as a head of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and the DEI Council, and she brought numerous speakers to the School to discuss topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In an effort to expand the depth and breadth of her activism, she joined Act of Change’s Youth Ambassador Program in the fall of 2022 and worked with young Asian American leaders nationwide. The cohort discussed topics such as identity, mental health, and media representation. Annie’s leadership skills in these meetings made it clear that she is an “outstanding role model and a true changemaker,” Kat Mallari, manager of the Youth Ambassador Program, said at the gala. “Her younger peers were often impressed by her and mirrored Annie’s thoughtfulness and vulnerability in sharing her experiences with bullying. She not only showed true mastery of session material but also served as a resource for other students to help frame perspectives that were unique to their own experiences.”
In her acceptance speech, Annie said it was difficult to find the balance between her Asian American and international Chinese identities when she first immigrated to the United States in sixth grade. Her attempt to reconcile this identity led to her activism, and she now finds it empowering to understand a wide spectrum of Asian experiences. “I wanted to create spaces where the nuanced qualities of our multifaceted, shared Asian-ness could be openly grappled with in collectivity,” she said during her speech. “I founded the first ever Pan-Asian Affinity Group at my school in its 132 years of history, and I implemented bi-monthly meetings and schoolwide programming that fostered a sense of visibility, safety, and community for Asian students.”
Following the gala, Annie said that her faculty mentors at Hotchkiss gave her the freedom to pursue her advocacy work while also providing the appropriate level of guidance. “Because of all the mentorship and structural support that I’ve received, I’ve been able to find comfort in my own ability to lead and figure out how to do everything, step by step,” Annie said. “I really appreciate the support I got from Hotchkiss.”
In her speech, Annie thanked Nora Yasumura, her Hotchkiss mentor for the Youth Ambassador Program. “Annie has been a transformative leader within and outside the Pan-Asian community at Hotchkiss,” Yasumura said, noting that “Hotchkiss students of Asian descent felt more seen and supported” due to Annie’s work.
Annie will attend Columbia University in the fall, and she plans to study anthropology and perhaps comparative race and ethnic studies. She will also continue her activism. “I can’t wait to continue learning, leading, and growing with the up-and-coming young Asian American activists in my generation.”