Students should seek opportunities to reach out to local communities

With such a large the number of students from different ethnic backgrounds attending USC, I would hope that there is more appreciation of the increasing diversity. As an Asian-American student at USC, however, I have found that many students tend to stick with others of similar ethnic background, which of course is totally fine. It’s just that at a university with students from so many diverse backgrounds, there should be more cross-cultural involvement and collaboration at USC happening, which would increase the cultural richness of USC and Los Angeles that this diversity has provided.

We are quite oblivious to the local communities that have existed for decades around our bubble-like campus. If someone were to name different communities around our vicinity, Little Tokyo, Chinatown and our Black and Latino neighbors would come to mind. And who could forget Koreatown, just a little over two miles away from USC?

But did you also know that there are also Thai and Armenian communities around us in East Hollywood, called Thai Town and Little Armenia, respectively? And how about the Latino communities in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles that reside near our Health Sciences Campus? We might have heard of these communities by name, but I am sure we know little about some of their cultures. But if LA prides itself as being one of the largest multicultural centers in the world, why shouldn’t we celebrate our diverse city?

As a student of a multiethnic background, I felt compelled to work on this and increase cross-cultural collaboration within our university and with the surrounding communities, so I teamed up with a group of like-minded individuals to create a student organization called USC Pangaea Initiative to do just that. And one such community that we became involved with is the multicultural community of Koreatown.

Many people assume that Koreatown is mainly inhabited by Koreans. This, however, is surprisingly off-point to the current demographics of 53.5 percent Latino, 32.2 percent Asian, 7.4 percent White, and 4.8 percent Black, a clearly multicultural community that KYCC serves.

Most importantly, many families in Koreatown are of low-income. That’s why USC Pangaea Initiative decided to partnered with the Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC) and the Multicultural Greek community, a community that has done cross-cultural events in the past, to run a toy drive to provide toys to the low-income children in Koreatown. Specifically, we reached out to Jorge Calderon of Lambda Theta Phi, Jessica Guevara of Omega Phi Beta and Adrian Gil of Sigma Lambda Beta. The members of Lambda Theta Phi, Omega Phi Beta and Sigma Lambda Beta have joined efforts to collecting toys and monetary donations with us to ensure that KYCC has enough toys for the holidays.

KYCC hosts a Holiday Carnival every December to give low-income families a way to celebrate the holidays when they cannot do so themselves due to financial constraints. KYCC even provides an unwrapped toy to every kid attending the carnival. But in recent years, the Carnival has experienced shortages in toy donations, which means these children of ages 0-9 have waited in line with high hopes for many hours just to receive no toy in the end. All of our involved organizations saw this as a way to serve multicultural Koreatown, one of USC’s surrounding ethnic communities. So far, we have reached out to many contributors and are continuing to fundraise to reach 300 toys by Dec. 13, which is the date of this year’s 21st Annual Holiday Carnival. Those who are interested in donating online or volunteering can visit

This concerted effort is as much of a success as it is a humble beginning towards a path of increasing cross-cultural awareness and involvement at USC, as well as the ethnic communities in LA. It might be easy to dismiss or even ignore the cultural diversity that we are surrounded with, but the richness that it gives to LA and USC cannot be ignored.

For me, I wasn’t used to the idea of diversity when I came to this school, but it was the many small actions of appreciating and serving different ethnic communities that eventually led up to this current undertaking. You might have felt the same way about approaching diversity. But it really just takes a small step forward to gain momentum.

Wayne Thai
President of USC Pangaea Initiative
Senior, Marshall School of Business