Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month affords our CICS network to celebrate the diverse backgrounds, contributions, and accomplishments of the AAPI community. We are excited to shine a light on our very own, Christine Leung, CICS President, who is a respected leader of CICS and a trailblazer in her own right. Please enjoy our Q&A with Christine to further understand what AAPI Heritage Month means to her and her hopes for the future.
I serve as President here at CICS. In this capacity, I collaboratively mobilize departments and stakeholders around shared goals and strategies. I oversee strategic alignment across our 13-campus organization and lead the executive leadership team and key stakeholders to develop and implement priorities to improve student outcomes and enhance performance for our network.
My family has been in Chicago since the 1950s. Communities on the South side of the city received my maternal grandparents and then my father as an international student, when they each immigrated to the United States. My family deeply believes in the power of community and, for decades, has always intentionally built and strengthened the communities where they lived and worked.
At CICS, we have the honor and responsibility to serve the unique needs of communities across the city. We must ensure our campuses elevate the assets in each neighborhood while holding a high and consistent bar of quality and care. I know that our students are the future leaders who will contribute to thriving communities and it’s our job to provide them with the strong foundation to do so.
I’m proudly a woman of color and an Asian American all the time, not just during AAPI Heritage Month, but I do appreciate the focused recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders and Asian American contributions to the history and culture of this country. The named month is also a good reminder for me to recommit every year to learning more about the complexity of the diaspora and our history and deepen my understanding of how Asian Americans continue to navigate racism, discrimination, and the perpetuating and damaging model minority myth.
Celebrating the Lunar New Year. Practices for this sacred holiday are rooted in tradition, superstition, luck, and family. There is a lot of preparation to get ready for each new year - grocery shopping and specific decorations, wrapping up loose ends and SO much cleaning! Every food and dish we eat has meaning and is oftentimes only eaten on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also, whatever happens on Lunar New Year is supposed to signify what your entire year will entail, so you want to be surrounded by loved ones enjoying the holiday.
Spending time with my family, listening to stories about my grandparents’ and parents’ beginnings and journeys in this country. Reflecting on my own leadership and how my heritage has shaped how I value and very much see myself as part of a greater whole, in every space I’m in, professional and personal. I’ve always been a big reader so I usually choose a book by an AAPI author and double down on AAPI-centered books with my daughter too.
We each - myself included - can and need to learn more about Asian American history and learn about the entirety of the story, not just what has been included in the curriculum so far. I appreciate where there are sincere efforts to understand and teach the interwoven histories of all peoples of color and our impact individually and collectively on American culture, past and present. It’s not just about acknowledging and celebrating the rich history of all Americans during specific months, but rather about advocating for and implementing changes to our curriculum and school cultures to ensure that each school community is inclusive year-round.
I hope that Asian Americans feel seen and valued in every part of our society. I hope that we continue to break through stereotypes. What I hope for all people of color here in America is that each of us knows that we are an integral part of what makes communities and our country unique and better because of it.
Christine Leung is an experienced President and Chief Strategy Officer with over two decades of experience driving purpose-driven organizations to new heights of growth and impact. She currently serves as President at Chicago International Charter School, overseeing the strategic planning and implementation of critical milestones across the 13-campus organization and leading the executive leadership team to develop and implement priorities to improve outcomes and enhance performance for the charter school network. As an Instructor of Learning and Organizational Change at Northwestern University, Leung shares her expertise through experiential learning design and proprietary frameworks. She is an accomplished leader with a talent for building relationships, modeling authenticity, and developing cultures where people thrive. Leung holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Behavior, Human Resource Management, and Labor Relations from Cornell University and a Master of Science in Learning & Performance, Organizational Development, and Change Management from Northwestern University.
About Chicago International Charter School
Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago charter schools that enable students to thrive every day, put them on a path to success in college and life, and empower entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation. CICS is serving more than 7,400 students at 13 campuses across Chicago. To learn more, visit www.chicagointl.org.