USC’s Filipino American Student Association (FASA) aims to foster an environment for Filipino and non-Filipino students to spread awareness about Filipino Culture, raise funds to help the local community and provide a space for students to connect with each other.
“We basically strive to see all these people come in from similar backgrounds but also invite others who are from different backgrounds," said Seleena Her, the public relations officer for FASA and a second-year pharmacy student. “It’s really nice to see everyone get along no matter where they come from or if they’re just struggling to find someone they can relate to.”
Jacelyn Arradaza, FASA's secretary and a second-year political science student, found community within FASA after coming to USC. She said she grew up in a small town in South Carolina where her high school had two Filipinos in her graduating class — herself and Miah Espinosa, the current treasurer and a second-year pharmacy student.
Joining an organization like FASA her freshman year allowed Arradaza to connect with people from similar backgrounds as hers, she said.
“I didn’t have anyone to relate to or identify with, so coming to terms with my culture and my ethnicity was hard,” Arradaza said. “FASA is also another outlook or location for people to find that identity and that cultural association that they may not get when they were growing up.”
To help foster this type of environment, FASA holds many different events throughout the semester. A great example of an event is that after the fall student organization fair, FASA holds a new member dinner. This dinner is for new and current members to come together and enjoy each other's company.
“We do a lot of Filipino food, we just get to know each other, break the ice a little bit and just make it seem like this is not an organization just for Filipinos,” Arradaza said. “This is for anybody. Anybody is welcome, and we want them to feel welcome.”
Jolo Antonio, vice president and third-year pharmacy student, got his dad to help cook traditional Filipino food for the new member dinner. One of his favorite dishes is dinuguan, a pork blood stew.
“I wanted to see how the members would like it, and they really liked it, so that made me really happy,” Antonio said. “That was one of my favorite things, seeing people smile, eating Filipino food — eating something that resonates with my culture.”
Other events the organization has hosted throughout the year are fundraisers such as a Filipino bake sale that raised more than $500 and was one of the group's largest fundraisers.
There have also been social events such as FASA's own March Madness basketball tournament where the group collaborated with other organizations such as the Vietnamese Student Association, Taiwanese Student Association and The Asian and Pacific Islander Activism Association as a fun way to unite the groups.
“Another impact (FASA) really did bring onto campus is it brought a lot of the other orgs together,” Ethan Calderon, president and third-year nursing student said. “I think through that, we were finally able to create a huge circle among everyone … and it brought everyone together.”
Many members of the executive board hope to host a gala that brings people together to highlight Filipino culture, according to Calderon.
“We want to be able to do it with the Filipino community within Columbia as well,” Espinosa said. “We just think it will be a really fantastic idea that people would be able to see our culture.”