17-year-old student lobbies to get Asian American history taught in New Jersey public schools

RIDGEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) -- A 17-year-old from New Jersey turned her pride in her Asian heritage and her anger over how some have made her feel into action.

Christina Huang lobbied for Asian American history to be taught in public schools, and her hard work has paid off. It's now law in the state of New Jersey.

Huang is done being uncomfortable. And she is done being silent.

The 17-year-old has already felt enough pain for a lifetime. She was born and raised in this country, yet she hasn't always felt like she belonged.

"I was about like first, second grade and it was on the bus ride home and I remember seeing my grandma outside, she was doing like her exercises, like Chinese dances to warm up in the cold and I remember when I got off the bus to leave, everyone started pointing at her and laughing and like stretching their eyes," Huang said.

But Huang took that pain and turned it into purpose.

And luckily for the senior at Ridgewood High School, she had supportive teachers who not only introduced her to Asian American history, but encouraged her to get involved.



So last March she went on a mission to help lobby Trenton to mandate Asian American history be taught in public schools. That effort moved at lightning speed.

A few weeks ago, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law, making New Jersey only the second state after Illinois to pass such a law.

"When we're hearing that one in three AAPI parents is reporting their child experienced a hate incident this past school year, that of course makes everyone really deeply concerned," said Dr. Kani Ilangovan with Make Us Visible New Jersey.

Make us visible New Jersey is part of the coalition behind that legislation.

The bill passed unanimously with bipartisan support.

The coalition says Asian American history is American history and education is the antidote to hate.

"We're invisible, I didn't know our history, I didn't know how much we've contributed to this country," Ilangovan said. "I didn't know birthright citizenship is from Asian Americans. Wong Kim Ark, he's a Chinese American, and they were trying to kick him out to the country because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. And he fought all the way to the Supreme Court."

Meanwhile back at Ridgewood High School, history teachers taught Huang why she belongs...and now they have a piece of history walking down their hallways.

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