Janie Chen

Sirinda Wongpanich

Oakland Technical High School, Oakland

Janie is on a quest of discovery: to find her own roots and to understand her community at home. This prompted her to launch the Humans of Oakland Technical High School and Humans of Oakland websites, forcing her to open conversations first with fellow students, and then with strangers in very different situations in her home town. Bridging gaps and forging understanding are two gifts Janie has brought to those who follow Humans of Oakland Tech and Humans of Oakland on her Facebook pages. But most importantly, it enabled Janie, who struggles with the challenges that come with straddling two cultures, to see herself as part of these struggles, as part of the colorful and diverse palette that is Oakland, California.

As a young woman of color in today’s society, Janie believes it is her role to advocate and give voice to marginalized groups. And so, she’s making it her business to further her own understanding of diverse cultures and issues so that she can become an effective advocate. As she continues her journey, she’d like to work with youth of color in the foster system – to help them develop a better sense of their own identity and where they came from. As she, herself, learned firsthand: it’s not until one understands one’s own background that one can truly understand the many underlying challenges people of color face on a daily basis.