OCAPICA’s Fellowship is ROOTED in student growth


Emily Park

Growing Great Leaders: The Fall 2022 ROOTED cohort at the closing celebration on Dec. 8.

Trisha Phan, Lifestyle Editor

From Feb. 2 to May 11, find ROOTED students on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Magnolia High School discussing topics ranging from racial justice to holistic wellness. Run by the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA), a local non-profit organization, ROOTED is a youth leadership fellowship for AUHSD students. Empowering young leaders to tackle community issues, ROOTED nurtures students’ career skills through mock interviews, advice from professionals, and college tours.


A typical day at ROOTED begins with the aptly nature-themed workbook featuring the ROOTED calendar, wellness trackers, and writing prompts. During sessions, students bond through fun activities, forging friendships across the district. Discussions of important topics cultivate a safe environment for students to expand their social awareness and comfortably express themselves. Focusing on reflection and growth, the day ends with another workbook prompt and mentor check-ins with program leaders and interns.


“ROOTED was a super inclusive space that allowed me to speak freely with those who accepted me,” Magnolia High School sophomore Jade Hoang said. “I’ve been so much more confident and ambitious since then.”


Tying together their learning throughout the program, students produce a social activism project to present at a showcase in front of ROOTED fellows, alumni, and local leaders.


During the Fall 2022 cohort, a group of five Cypress High School and Loara High School students created a project addressing food insecurity involving the Magnolia Agriscience Community Center (MACC), a farm at Magnolia High School. With the aid of MACC coordinators and OCAPICA staff, four AUHSD families in need were identified, all receiving fresh produce from the MACC, non-perishable foods from a food drive, and educational content about healthy eating throughout the holiday season.


Oxford Academy’s own freshman Chris Phan, junior Lida Lam, and junior Ren Nguyen took part in creating the activism project MADD (Music, Art, Dance, and Drama) for Mental Health. Writing and illustrating a children’s book, these students created a heartfelt story with animals to share the importance of mental health. The group also facilitated student art therapy workshops to promote students’ self expression through creative outlets.


“The activism project felt overwhelming at first, [but] it’s definitely doable with a bit of grit and passion,” Fall 2022 alumni Lida Lam said. “After finishing the project and presenting it, I’m proud of how far my group members and I have come.”


With the Spring 2023 cohort underway, marking the sixth cohort of ROOTED, keep an eye out for future ROOTED sessions and OCAPICA events through their Instagram (@ocapicayouth). ROOTED encourages students’ growth, leaving their alumni with opportunities to sprout into strong leaders.


“All the mentors and program coordinators really show they love their job, and a family is created [from] that attitude,” Lam said. “ROOTED focuses a lot on self-care, and every session felt like a breath of fresh air in my chaotic schedule.”

To join the waitlist for when ROOTED Fall 2023 applications are open, visit www.bit.ly/ROOTEDF23Waitlist.