Stories of Monsoon

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your interest in Stories of Monsoon. Monsoon’s Youth Violence Prevention Program’s teen advocates spent several months gathering and assembling this collection of narratives from all staff members at Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity so that you gain a better understanding of the people who are committed to providing optimal services in marginalized communities and contributing toward social change.

Monsoon staff members were asked to submit a short personal account that represented their roots.  Entries spanned from revelations of misunderstanding to descriptions of struggle and of triumph; from chronicles based on core values to declarations that question the very notion of storytelling and the intentionality behind it.  The authors are kept anonymous to maintain confidentiality, but every word comes from a unique experience and perspective. They express the collective diversity of Monsoon.

We hope each story can be celebratory and inspiring, encouraging you to think about your story and what role you want to play in the realm of human rights globally. More importantly, when was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and asked a stranger, “What’s your story?”

Much love, respect and gratitude,

Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity                          Youth Violence Prevention Program


Back: Nathan Ung, Yahriel Salinas-Reyes, James Meng, Alex Song Front: Ethan Ung, Manali Jama, Rodney Norris

Audri Lu-Uhlken is the Youth Program Coordinator at Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity. She was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, and comes from the Lao and Tai Dam communities. Audri has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa. She previously worked in radio advertising in Omaha, Nebraska, and Denver, Colorado. Her passions include community outreach, social equity and advocating for youths.

Youth interns, in alphabetical order:

Manali Jama is a graduate of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. She speaks fluent Somali, and is in the process of learning Arabic. Manali values social justice discourse, aims to spark transformation in communities around her and strives to positively impact others through the work she does.  She will be attending Iowa State University in Fall 2019.

James Meng is a graduate of Valley High School in Des Moines, and is passionate about advocacy, specifically for youths.  James will be attending the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Fall 2019.  In his free time, he enjoys playing the piano, ping pong and reading, and especially spending time with his younger brother.

Rodney Norris is a graduate of Hoover High School in Des Moines. He is in the process of learning Spanish, and he is deeply interested in social reforms such as racial equity and ending police brutality. Rodney will be attending a community college in Fall 2019. 

Yahriel Salinas-Reyes is a graduate of Valley High School in Des Moines. He is a bicultural first-generation immigrant and can speak Spanish fluently. He acknowledges his privileges and the opportunities he has had, but he also is immersed in advocacy, activism and policy work to help level the playing field for disadvantaged communities. Yahriel is a youth leader in other areas as well, including STEM-based activities, music and diverse groups.  He will be attending Iowa State University in Fall 2019.

Alex Song is a graduate of Lincoln High School. He was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, and identifies as Korean-American.  He is passionate about helping people in need, fighting for equity and erasing stereotypes in the modern world.  Alex will be attending Grand View University in Fall 2019. 

Ethan Ung is a senior at Johnston High School. He is a theater enthusiast and believes in the power of drama to challenge oppressions. Ethan also likes people with a good sense of humor.

Nathan Ung is a sophomore at Johnston High School. Music and food bring Nathan great joy, and they are passions he shares also with friends and family.