May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month, and we are proud to recognize all of our remarkable AAPI identified Advocates. This month, we are highlighting an amazing Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer, Aileen Cheng, who consistently SHOWS UP for foster youth. Get to know her beyond her advocacy.
May Advocate Spotlight: Aileen Cheng, CASA Volunteer
Years of service with Child Advocates of Silicon Valley: 5+ Years
Number of children served: 2 total
During college, Aileen Cheng would volunteer her time in between schoolwork and giving back to her community. Once Aileen graduated, she wanted to start this new chapter in her life by really making a difference. Aileen was excited to start her career with a new job at Cisco. With her career journey beginning, Aileen felt that she had more to give, so she joined Cisco’s mailing list. Their mailing list would showcase different volunteer opportunities for Cisco employees to volunteer at. Wanting to volunteer her time again, she saw Child Advocates’ CASA Volunteer opportunities and was intrigued. She attended the info session in 2017 and thus began her CASA Volunteer journey.
“If I don’t fill my time, I know I will waste it, so I want to pack my schedule and volunteer. I want to use my time to do something good and give back to the community.” – Aileen Cheng
Recollecting on her advocacy journey, Aileen remembered how memorable the info session was. The informational session was what sold her on becoming a CASA Volunteer. She remembered how compelling it was; it really moved her to learn about the difficult situations many foster youth face. After the info session, Aileen was ready to make an impact.
“You can really make a difference in their lives. It’s a great mission, and I feel like my time will be well spent.” – Aileen Cheng
Aileen has had her first case since 2017, and what drew her in was the kindness of the foster child. Aileen wanted to help them find their passion for learning and education. Education is important to Aileen, and she wanted to show that learning can be fun and exciting. During their hangouts, they would do math problems on receipts and come up with fun ways to learn. Aileen reflected on how easy going her foster child is, and how much fun they would have together during their hangouts. Even after the case closed, Aileen would try to hang out with them at least once a month, and was happy that the family reunited.
Unfortunately, things took a turn when Aileen found out that her first case was reopened. At first Aileen was bummed that the case reopened, but she wanted to continue to advocate for her youth. Now, as a pre-teen, Aileen has seen how much her foster child has grown and become more independent. She is getting to know them again and their interests. She’s grateful that although she might not be as hip as she used to be, or in the “know”, her foster youth still wants to spend time together.
“They see that volunteering isn’t my job, and that I am trying to have fun with them, and hang out with them, and they really appreciate that.” – Aileen Cheng
In the beginning of Aileen’s advocacy journey, she felt like she wasn’t doing enough for the youth, but to them, just being there is more than enough. Aileen tries her best to align her schedule with her foster youth’s to be there for them. She wants to continue being a consistent adult figure in their life that SHOWS UP. She says that SHOWING UP for them is most important, and is crucial in developing a strong relationship. Aileen thoroughly plans weekly outings that consist of an enriching activity and nutritional food.
“Knowing that I can meet with them a lot, and as long as I am trying with them, then that is all that matters” – Aileen Cheng
Throughout her advocacy journey, Alieen has learned that each youth is their own person, and to let them embrace and own that. Each child is different, and advocating for them can be done in different ways. She has learned to comfort her own worries, and that she is doing more than enough as a CASA Volunteer. Her willingness to make a difference shows through by reaching out and always trying with them.
“Do not dwell on the past, and don’t worry about not doing enough. SHOWING UP and being there for your foster child is all that matters.” – Aileen Cheng
Fun Facts About Aileen:
TV Show You’re Currently Binge Watching: Aileen is currently watching various Korean dramas and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Arc with friends on a weekly basis.
A Must Watch Movie You Recommend To Everyone: Aileen recently watched the indie A24 movie, Everything, Everywhere All At Once, and highly recommends it. Aileen is ecstatic to see more Asian representation in mainstream media, and is happy that different AAPI cultures is being celebrated to wider audiences. The movie stars Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Harry Shum Jr., and James Hong. The movie is currently out in select theaters.
Last Book You Read: The last book Aileen read was Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner. The memoir has appeared in the New York Times Best Selling Book list and on their notable book of the year list. When Aileen heard about the book, she suggested the novel to her book club at work, to which they agreed to read it. Being the organizer of the book club with the Asian Googlers Network, she was excited to read a novel that she can personally relate to. The book is a powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing a mother, and forging one’s own identity.
Favorite Music To Listen To: Aileen will listen to anything BTS! BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys, is an internationally known South Korean boy band. Aileen is such a diehard #Army stan (Army is the name of BTS’ fanbase) that she even went to three of their Los Angeles shows and one Vegas show. She is willing to pay any ticket price just so she can see her favorite BTS member RM. Aileen is such a huge fan that she even plays BTS Wordle AND Heardle with other BTS mega fans! Aileen, along with the rest of #Army cannot wait to hear the release of BTS’ new song that comes out in June.
Favorite Hobby(ies): A large chunk of Aileen’s free time goes to playing Pokemon Go to become a Pokemon Master and stanning BTS.