Skip to main content

Connecting communities through culture and creative design

By Ilia Young
Ronald W. Reagan High School ‘24

Like the rest of the class of 2024, Julia Su’s freshman year was mostly online thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online year opened her eyes and inspired her to action in the years since. She created a branch of Amnesty International at her school, became a digital media creator and found her place within the community during her isolated time.

Su, 16, attends Green Level High School in Cary. She’s a member of the Asian American club, Chinese association and a youth ambassador of North Carolina Asian Americans Together.

In a digital age, she said, young people can’t look away from uncomfortable topics, including attacks on human rights on both a local and international level.

“There were Asian American hate crimes that I became aware of and realized this was happening to my own people,” Su said. “I remember specifically, this elderly Asian woman that was stabbed and I was like, ‘That could’ve been my mom.’”

ASu has demanded change. Her sophomore year, she created a branch of Amnesty International at her school, a program aiming to raise awareness on human rights issues.

“I was really interested in humanitarian aid and benefits because of the Ukraine situation,” Su said. “It was everywhere in the US, and I just wanted to see ways that I could help bring awareness to things like this.”

Since then, her club garnered national attention. Work they’ve accomplished has been featured on Amnesty International’s Instagram page. Su’s club has its own Instagram page to connect locally.

“Through this I’ve written letters to officials like senators and representatives, and written on blogs,” Su said. “These have helped me use my voice in a way to help people who are in criminal trouble, who were wrongly tried or just should not be punished as they are.”

Heading up a chapter of Amnesty International has impacted Su’s school community by allowing student leaders to be exposed to international stories.

“It’s also helped me get people together to do this with me,” Su said. “If it was just me, I would not have that big of an impact. Whereas, with my whole community, there’s an impact.”

The leadership experience has also helped Su grow.

“It’s something I’ve been really involved in and has honestly shaped who I am today,” Su said. “I’ve never liked public speaking or talking to people that I don’t know, so it has actually helped me use my voice more to spread awareness.”

The pandemic year also gave Su an opportunity to explore digital design. Su credits classes she’s taken while in high school, such as Adobe graphic design, with further encouraging her. “My brother was a huge influence on my interest in digital media,” Su said. “He made the company BluCube Media, and that’s where I’ve developed interest in graphics.”

While a social life is difficult to maintain during school, Su didn’t let rigorous academic courses rule her time.

“Something I always say with my friends is ‘you only live once,’ and ‘do it for the plot,’” Su said. “That’s the thing, I’ve had the best memories, core memories, of just spontaneous times.”

Growing up in a supportive, diverse community gave Su the opportunity to gradually accept her culture. Su grew up attending extra school to remain immersed in her Chinese ancestry. She now volunteers at the school she previously attended and embraces her heritage.

“Sometimes I felt left out of my culture, and that was something I definitely made a note to change in high school,” Su said. “It’s not as embarrassing as I used to think it was, it’s not something I can hide, or that I should try to hide.”