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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Meet the AJGA Staff

Meet the four AJGA staff members of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent
Angela Ding and Family

For Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) would like to pay tribute to all the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have not only enriched America's history but have been a big part of making golf more inclusive. We believe welcoming people from all backgrounds and embracing diverse perspectives better equip us to accomplish our mission of developing golf's next generation.

The AJGA currently has four staff members that come from AAPI origin or descent.

Meet our Staff:

Angela Ding- Communications Coordinator

On her heritage: "I'm first generation Chinese-American as my parents immigrated here [from China] in 1997 and 1998," Ding said. "I was born in Los Angeles and grew up speaking Chinese as my first language. I didn't really know English until I went to preschool but I can still speak Chinese fluently today."

Favorite customs and traditions: "We always celebrate Lunar New Year and Autumn Festival and we will get around friends and family and all celebrate the big Chinese holidays which is fun. During Lunar New Year, if you're unemployed or a kid, all the adults are supposed to give you a red envelope full of money and that's really cool. Finally, they'll make dumplings and put money in one of them and whoever finds it has wealth coming to them [for the new year]."

Why AAPI month matters to her: "It's important to me because growing up as a Chinese-American, I wasn't always represented in different parts of the media and other things. But it's really cool now because in sports and especially in the game of golf, there's a lot more representation. But also it's cool to have a month to make my cultural traditions more aware and not just specifically for Chinese people but all of the Asian community. It's important to celebrate that and uplift our community."

Torry Rees- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator

On his heritage: "I was adopted at a young age by two white parents, so it's something that I've known," Rees said. "I learned that I was Filipino from my birth parents growing up. It's certainly something I don't remember entirely, but my grandmother took care of me and my brother before I got adopted."

On growing up differently: "Luckily, I was adopted alongside my brother so it was definitely something we went through together growing up in rural Mississippi of not having really anyone who looked like us. Trying to fit into groups and not having a great understanding of who you were or trying to be accepted was difficult. But the older I got, the easier I learned to accept those parts of myself and who I was and eventually found others who accepted that too."

Why AAPI month matters to him: "I think it's important to highlight and educate those who don't have a good understanding or knowledge of different AAPI customs and traditions. It's something even being a Filipino American, I can still learn from those who have a more customary background as well. I think it's cool to celebrate, acknowledge and see more representation of myself out there because I know when I was younger I didn't see it as much."

Katrina Salzer- Coordinator of Youth Development

On her heritage: "I am Filipino on my mom's side as she was born in the Philippines and met my dad who was in the Air Force and they settled here in America," Salzer said. "I've actually been there twice, once when I was a baby and then when I was six which I slightly remember. But that's definitely when I started getting introduced to Filipino culture."

On getting a deeper understanding of her culture and traditions: "When I was in middle school, my mom's parents lived with us in South Carolina and that was really when I tapped into my culture. They were speaking Tagalog around the house, had Filipino television on in the house and would cook traditional meals from over there. It was really valuable because there weren't really Filipino people around me so I learned it from my mom and my grandparents."

Why AAPI month matters to her: "Growing up I didn't really see anyone look like me which made me doubtful of who I was and where I fit in because I didn't really see that representation. But as an adult, not only having a month that fully celebrates who I am but seeing different Disney princesses or actors and actresses that look like me is really powerful. Hopefully, it inspires and empowers the younger generation that they can really be anything but I just love it [this month] because it doesn't put us in this box and we can really celebrate who we are."

Sarah Turner- Communications Coordinator

On her heritage: "My Korean heritage comes from my mom's side as my grandmother came to America from South Korea," Turner said. "My grandparents actually met during the war and then moved back here to America. One day, I would really love to go visit South Korea because I've always seen photos from when my grandmother lived there so it would be incredible to see it in person."

On customs and traditions: "Anytime we have family gatherings, my grandmother always cooks Korean and Asian style dishes like Bulgogi and Chicken Chop Suey, which is basically chicken with vegetables but it's really good. Also, my middle name is Soonok which is Korean. It was my mother's middle name and she passed it down to me."

Why AAPI month matters to her: "I think the month overall gives a real sense of community to people who do have similar heritage. It makes me feel grateful for where my family has been, where they've come from, and how that's translated into my life today. Although we don't practice many Korean traditions in our daily lives now, I would love to learn more about those traditions to see how they celebrate different holidays and customs."