Founders of Asian-American digital magazine hope to impact future generations

A group of high school students are documenting the experiences of Asian-Americans in history and present day through a digital magazine called "What We Experience."

Jeenah Gwak, 17, of Bellevue and Hope Yu, 18, of Seattle are the co-founders and co-editors of the quarterly publication. The pair started the magazine as a project in 2020, following the rise of attacks against the Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

"Anti-Asian sentiments are still happening. We still have racist events going around all around the country, and we want to keep raising awareness," said Gwak.

"Each individual out there is a person and has a life story and has equal value," said Yu. "I think that’s the biggest takeaway from me."

Now, the "What We Experience" team has about a dozen volunteer staff members who are all in high school. 

There have been seven issues published so far, exploring the experiences of Asian-Americans—from artists, to Olympic athletes, Asian-American men and women, Asian-Americans in the LGBTQ community and immigrants.

"I think [I was the most proud of] the issue that I did about my grandfather, it was a piece about his immigration story and how he ended up where he is now, it meant a lot to me just to be able to hear kind of directly his words and his direct story, instead of what my parents mentioned," said Yu.

Gwak and Yu are both heading to college this fall, but said they’ll continue to foster "What We Experience" as a platform for the next generation of Asian-Americans.

"We don’t learn any of these things in school. Everyone has their individual cultures and as important as your culture is to you, it is important to them as well," said Gwak. "We want to provide a resource that everyone can go to and read about the history of Asian culture, and just Asian experiences in general. We don’t find that in history textbooks."

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The next issue of "What We Experience" is set to publish on June 26 and will focus on food. 

"I think that it’ll be the most impactful for everyone, because food is something that we all share," said Gwak. "Asian cuisine is found everywhere in America."