Amoako, a college student, said that she has been with the YAASPA organization since she was 12 years old. She further explained, emotionally, that her parents did not go to college, so graduating with a degree in computer science is a massive goal for her.
"We all know the world, or especially here in America, that it is catered to people who are not minorities. Institutional racism is against BIPOC people," Amoako said. "Because of systemic racism, YAASPA helped me understand that my voice is important and that I need to be heard. I used to be very shy, but YAASPA taught me how to go beyond what the system tells me to do. I define my future."
Pacheco shared she has dealt with racism growing up, primarily when she saw how people treated her mother, who is from Mexico and has limited understanding of the English language. Because of this, Pacheco and her sister helped translate for their mother while she struggled to juggle two jobs to provide for the family. Witnessing these hardships has inspired Pacheco to either start a business or go to college because her mother was not in the position to do either.
"In YAASPA, we discuss topics like social justice, environmental justice, mental health," Pacheco said. "We have open conversations where we all express our ideas about what matters to us. We are a family, one community together."
YAASPA also provides mental resource services for BIPOC students, something Pacheco is thankful for.
"Historically, Black and brown communities do not want to accept the fact that mental health is real, and that it is OK for you not to be OK and to go through depression and have emotions," Pacheco explained. "In my family or Hispanic culture, men want to achieve what we call 'machismo.' Often, Hispanic men find their worth in working all the time or don't show emotions. We must change that mentality. We have to teach our Black and brown communities that mental health is a real thing."
Adimou told Rocky Mountain PBS about a YAASPA project she worked on called "A Tale of Two Cities"— a fitting name for her findings. Adimou asked Denver Public Schools (DPS) students from predominately white schools and kids from minoritized schools (i.e., institutions in which a majority of students are non-white) what they felt was lacking to help them succeed in school. She discovered significant disparities: data showed that students at the predominately white schools felt there should be more funding for school sports. In contrast, the students at the minoritized schools felt there needed to be more funding for mental health.
"After these findings, I thought to myself, Wow! People would never believe these schools are in the same district. Even though these schools are both in the DPS district these students had drastically different experiences," explained Adimou.
Adimou said she, Amoako, and Pacheco all personally know and have worked together on various YAASPA projects. She added: "It's so nice to be around other women of color; they inspire me even if we are the same age."