Sumit Karn, 20’s
Since May 2016, I have been working with Steps, an agency within the Department of Social and Health Services in Washington State. At Steps, I support clients who are managing lifelong developmental disabilities and provide assistance in developing life skills, finishing school, and eventually finding employment.
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
I was born in a rural village in India and I immigrated to the United States in 2012 while receiving a Fulbright scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. My family still resides in India.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
In my opinion, the identity crisis is the most significant challenge. People from BIPOC communities often face some sort of discrimination. I, myself, have been in such circumstances several times. But, I guess it is our strength too, as it also affirms our ability to endure such circumstances.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment has been mentoring a girl named Manisha. I met her when she was 11-year-old. I was 16. My mentor, Ajay, and I had created a study group in a slum in Delhi where she used to come to study English and Mathematics. She had an insatiable appetite for educational growth and an unbridled passion for knowledge. So, we recognized this and arranged for her enrollment at a nearby school.
She went on to her school, and I moved to the United States for my further studies. In 2018, I received a message from her telling me that she had moved out of Anna Nagar slum, and today, she works in IT and rents an apartment that she shares with her parents.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
From my mother, I have learned the value of life. My father departed to heaven at a very early age. Cultural traditions would have my mother, a 22-year-old widow, isolated to a perpetual state of mourning. But she refused to follow those absurd traditions and chose to stand up for herself and her children. She worked multiple menial jobs just to keep food on the table for me and two younger siblings. I learned to stand up for myself and to work hard for what I wanted.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
Yes, I speak my family’s native language, Maithili. It is the language of communication within my family members.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
Follow your heart and your passion; it will take you places.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Mentoring and supporting our youth gives me the greatest joy.
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Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
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