At Farm to Chopsticks on August 10th, we are recognizing three AMAZING people who help make our work possible. Meet Kevin Liao!
Kevin Liao was born and raised in Chinatown, Los Angeles and currently lives in Lincoln Heights, a small residential community 3 miles away from Chinatown. He’s a fourth year student at Cal State LA where he is pursuing a degree in Biology. Currently he works at a non-profit called Para Los Ninos where he works on projects on college prep, social justice, and youth empowerment with local youth.
Here’s our interview with Kevin!
How did you first get connected with API Forward Movement (formerly known as APIOPA)?
I was first introduced to APIFM, then APIOPA, through a HS teacher; Mr. Wong. He knew that I was very interested in cycling and I loved cycling at the time. There was a program he mentioned that was called Bike to China where I then applied for and luckily I was picked from a competitive pool of high school students.
What would you say is the key thing you learned from the 2013 Bike to China (BTC) program? What did you end up doing with your BTC bike?
Kevin (pictured in the middle with his bike) with the rest of the 2013 Bike to China cohort after completing the last 65 mile marathon ride of the program.
One main thing I learned from the Bike to China program is how rewarding non-profit work was. At the time APIOPA only had Scott and Kyle around but they still managed to plan and run a successful program like Bike to China. I knew the work they did was out of their heart and it was because they loved the work they did. It also taught me that non-profit work is hard. One person might have to do two peoples’ worth of work and funding is always an issue. The bike that was given to me upon completion of Bike to China is now ridden by my dad and he actually rides the bike one or twice a week. He uses the bike to go to his friends house and sometimes to walk our dog Tyson.
It’s been quite a few years since BTC! What keeps you involved with APIFM?
I am still involved with APIFM because I love the work Scott and Kyle are continuing to do. Particularly because the work they’re continuing to do is in the community I grew up in and in the community I work in as well. The work that APIFM is currently doing may not directly correlate to the work that I am doing now but it is definitely something that I love to support because its pushing to create a healthier community.
What was the transition like going from a participant in BTC 2013 to a part-time staffer for Bike to Japan (BTJ) in 2014?
Kyle, Kevin, and Scott chilling in the shade
The transition from participant to part-time staffer wasn’t hard but it did take some time getting used to. I had to be mindful of what I did because as a participant it was more free willed. I kind of got to do whatever I wanted without regard to consequence like being a “role model” or an example. As a staff, I had to be mindful that there were youth/participants looking at my actions and if I did something not appropriate they might not think twice and believe that it is actually appropriate.
What led you to working with Para Los Ninos (PLN)? Did you always consider doing community work? What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working at PLN started off as just a summer job but after realizing that I was making impactful changes in my community similar to APIFM. Before being exposed to APIFM I didn’t know what a non-profit was and didn’t know what kind of work they did but after being exposed to APIFM I love non-profit work and love the challenges that come with non-profit work. Its very rewarding to the heart and every night when I go to bed I sleep knowing that I helped my community a little more today. My job has allowed me to change a lot of lives in a positive way. I have tutored students and helped them get GED’s which led to them being to pursue a professional career and even some attending four year universities.
Where did the idea for the Chinatown Fit Club come from? What are you hopes for the fit club in the future? How does this play into the larger issue of health and wellness in the community?
The Chinatown Fit Club meets every Wednesday evening at 6 PM at the L.A. State Historic Park! Bring a friend, your furry companion, or family member anytime!
Chinatown Fit Club came about when I was tabling with Scott and Kyle during the LA State Historic Park’s grand opening. I was sitting there thinking “Man we need to utilize this expensive park…” I didn’t really know what to do but I knew I wanted to use the park. Then Scott talked about RunAPI training and future LA Marathon trainings and we both kind of mentioned lets do a running club; No a FITNESS CLUB! That was the birth of Chinatown Fit Club. We definitely want the club to expand and thrive. We left the name Chinatown Fit Club vague because we didn’t want to stick to just running or just to one exercise. We wanted to leave the options limitless because we may want to expand into Tai Chi, Power Lifting, or even Parkour. We really don’t know what Chinatown Fit Club might evolve into. We want more Chinatown seniors to be involved with Chinatown Fit Club and more importantly utilize the LA State Historic Park. It’s the largest open space in the city but it doesn’t seem to be utilized by too many seniors and its definitely a demographic that we want to target. The elderly might not like the idea of running or jogging but maybe when we expand into Tai Chi we might be able to attract some elderly.