My Experience With CHAT’s Youth Leadership Group, an exit essay by Kashia Yang


My name is Kashia Yang and I will be graduating from Central High School this year. Throughout high school, I was a member of Center for Hmong Arts & Talent’s (CHAT) Youth Leadership Group (YLG). YLG is an afterschool leadership development group based around the arts. As a YLG member, we are expected to commit a whole year, 1 day a week (sometimes more) to attending workshops, organizing community events, fundraisers and open mics, and creating an original theater show. My 4 years of being with CHAT’s YLG has been an incredible journey. The knowledge I’ve gained from being in this program dramatically changed my life for the better. Not just because I got to know more about the thriving Twin Cities art scene, but because I also got to familiarize myself with my wonderful Hmong community.

I decided to join YLG because I heard it would be a great way to learn more about my identity, and improve my leadership, organization, and teamwork skills. This turned out to be true! Being involved in two YLG theatre productions, Over-Rated and Second Generation Blues, and many open mics and events such as the Fresh Traditions Fashion Shows and the Frogtown Lot Squat Block Parties opened my eyes, and brought out the best in me. Not only were we community organizers, artists, actors and such, we were also involved in the creative processes and decision making. We even helped with marketing and promoting our events.

I recall the first time having to write my personal stories for our plays; the thought of performing them terrified me! It was my first time being in a theatre production and I didn’t feel I had the confidence to perform in front of an audience. Although I didn’t see myself as an artist, nor did I believe in myself at that time to do so, my peers certainly did. Knowing that my peers believed in me, I eventually began to believe in myself. That’s when I knew this program was for me.

The thought of my personal stories contributing to these plays was a great accomplishment to me but I knew I had to still learn how to perform with confidence. This was a test for me to know how far I could go as a performer and public speaker. I kept in mind that I didn’t want to lose the chance of performing my own personal stories so I kept challenging myself. As I opened myself up to my group, the support was overwhelming and I started to feel as if there was nothing I should be afraid of. (It was true!) I realized this platform was a great way to provide others with the different perspectives and stories from me, my peers and my community. As much as I was nervous to share these stories, I made sure to give my all and do the best I could possibly do.

I came to realize that a team is only a team, but in order to be a great team, there needs to be trust, communication, and understanding of one another. Trust can be a hard thing to give but I realized that if I didn’t have trust in what my team did, the goal we were striving for might never be reached. Giving a person your trust isn’t always because you have to, it’s because you need to. You’re opening yourself up and being vulnerable; giving a chance to show a personal side of you. As for being understanding, nobody is ever perfect but understanding allows us to also be open to one another’s views.

My peers and I had many different ideas and approaches in YLG, and from a very human standpoint, our ideas ultimately matter most to ourselves; and that is okay! The support I received while being in YLG tremendously impacted me, and helped me become a better person. It may seem as if the simple gesture of supporting someone’s ideas and voice doesn’t do much, but the encouragement is key to empowering us. I learned that to create the best environment for a successful team, you have to truly accept and respect each other’s ideas even if they are far from your own.

Before I started working with YLG, I always had a difficult time communicating. After having been through CHAT’s program, I’ve changed, and I’ve come to realize that two (or more) heads are better than one! Instead of just using your own ideas that you might assume is the best and only approach, why not incorporate many ideas and perspectives to contribute to one collective idea? With this understanding I’ve come to realize the importance of teamwork. I now choose to use these strategies to better interact with others in order to reach my goals. The knowledge I’ve gained from being in the Youth Leadership Group did not just enhance my skills but also expanded my openness and acceptance of others.

Being in YLG didn’t only teach me about myself, but more importantly how to work as a team in order to to reach a collective outcome. Having to work with ten+ other youth can be really challenging as there are so many ideas, preferences, voices, and of course personalities. The main thing that stood out was that we all had to trust each other. With the right guidance and mentors (Fres, Tria and Jennifer), we were provided a safe space to focus on these skills. We eventually became very supportive and considerate of each other and created wonderful and memorable events together. This experience was not without its share of frustration and emotions, but with this new found understanding, we worked towards something great and that is a beautiful thing.

Kashia Yang
CHAT Youth Leadership Group, 2010-2014
Central High School Class of 2015

Knight Arts Challenge Opens!

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Join us for a community Q&A on Tuesday, April 28, 6 p.m., Rondo Library, 461 N. Dale St., St. Paul!


Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul opens for applications April 20
Q&A sessions scheduled for community-wide contest that
funds the best ideas for the arts

ST. PAUL, MINN. – March 25, 2015 – Starting April 20, the Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul will be seeking the best ideas for the arts in St. Paul. Anyone—whether they are an individual, organization or a business—may apply to win a share of $1.5 million for arts and culture projects that engage and enrich the city. The deadline for the challenge, a project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is May 18.

Knight Foundation will host one-hour community Q&A sessions April 27–29 in four St. Paul and Minneapolis locations to answer applicants’ questions. Knight staff and winners from 2014, the first year of the challenge in St. Paul, will be on hand to offer tips on creating a standout application and to provide information on the challenge timeline. Though all projects must either take place in or benefit St. Paul, Minneapolis-based artists and organizations are encouraged to apply.

The Community Q&As will take place:

Monday, April 27, 6:00 p.m., Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave., Minneapolis
Tuesday, April 28, 8:30 a.m., The Dubliner, 2162 University Ave. W, St. Paul
Tuesday, April 28, 6 p.m., Rondo Library, 461 N. Dale St., St. Paul
Wednesday, April 29, 8:30 a.m., Walker West, 760 Selby Ave., St. Paul

“Whether you are an individual artist, small ensemble or arts organization, are based in Minneapolis or St. Paul, or applied last year or not, we want to hear from you,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts. “Our goal is to seek out the best grassroots ideas for enriching St. Paul through the arts.”

The challenge is open to anyone who has a great idea for the arts. The simple application, which will be available at, asks for a project description in just 150 words and is designed to encourage submissions from a broad range of applicants.

There are only three rules for the challenge:
1) The idea must be about the arts;
2) The project must take place in or benefit St. Paul;
3) The grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

Last year, the St. Paul challenge drew 868 applications, with 42 winners.

“We were thrilled and surprised by the community’s innovative and authentically St. Paul ideas,” said Polly Talen, St. Paul program director for Knight Foundation.

The 42 winners sharing $1.365 million included: a collective of artists designing a light show projected onto a steam plume of the landmark St. Paul power plant; the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, for highlighting the best of Hmong design; Workhorse Coffee Bar, creating the smallest museum in St. Paul in a vintage fire-hose cabinet; Mu Performing Arts, for an original play about 21st century immigrant experiences; Zeitgeist, melding the musical and culinary arts by pairing foods with new musical compositions; and Stahl Construction Co., restoring historic company signs that distinguish Lowertown.
The challenge is part of an $8 million investment in the arts in St. Paul that Knight Foundation announced in early 2014. In addition to the three-year challenge, Knight Foundation has contributed $3.5 million to five of St. Paul’s anchor arts institutions: The Arts Partnership, Penumbra Theatre, Springboard for the Arts, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and TU Dance.

For updates, follow @knightarts and #knightarts on Twitter, @knightfdn on Instagram and Knight Foundation on Facebook.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

Kathy Graves, Parenteau Graves, 612-242-3184,
Marika Lynch, Knight Foundation communications, 305-908-2677,

Spring Songs & Sounds Fundraiser – CHAT & In Progress

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Help raise funds for two of St. Paul’s finest art organizations during a night of live music, lovely people, and great energy!

Center For Hmong Arts & Talent​ (CHAT) exists to nurture, explore and illuminate the Hmong American experience through artistic expressions.

In Progress​ exists to diversify cultural dialogue and pave the way for new voices in the field of digital art making

Together, and through their events and programs such as Fresh Traditions Fashion Show​ and the Qhia Dab Neeg​ Film Festival, these two arts organizations are progressing the St. Paul and Twin Cities creative landscape, developing young leaders and artists by providing accessible creative spaces, and opportunities.

WHEN? Saturday, April 25, 8PM to 12AM





WHERE? Camp Bar​, 490 Robert Street North, Downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota

21+, $10; $8 if you check in via Facebook

For more information, visit or

All proceeds go towards CHAT & QDN