Forging a path for the Filipino community
A chance encounter in her residence hall inspired Ivie-Fleur Rabon '19, a first-generation Filipino-American, to start a cultural club at Whitworth. "I was approached with confidence by another Filipino student in my residence hall asking me, 'Are you Filipino?' when I was in the kitchen making a traditional staple of our country, adobo," she says. Although Rabon had desired to create the club ever since she was admitted to Whitworth, it wasn't until that bonding experience that Rabon was motivated to start the chartering process.
Last year, Rabon founded FASA, the Filipino-American Student Association, at Whitworth. The club seeks to promote educational, political, cultural and social advancement with an emphasis on Filipino and Filipino-American culture. As the club's president, Rabon says, "FASA has opened up a gateway for me to express myself fully and cultivate a space for others, Filipino or not, to be comfortable in the setting we are in."
The club strives to create a sense of community, and has contributed to Spokane through several volunteering events. Last spring, the club helped plan a citywide graduation celebration for Asian-Pacific Islander high school and college students. "That is just one of the many opportunities for us to collectively gather and engage in community, while serving it as well," Rabon says.
"I also feel proud that the club, and Whitworth itself, has been acknowledged by a larger alliance," she says. Last summer, FASA was inducted into the Northwest Filipino-American Student Alliance (NWFASA), comprised of 21 collegiate organizations in Washington and Oregon.
Rabon now has the added responsibility of serving as an outreach associate for NWFASA. Her role includes managing communications between the Eastern Washington organizations and recruiting more student groups to join the alliance. Whitworth's FASA also helps plan alliance events and conferences, and will host November's alliance meeting on campus.
For Rabon, a health science major, FASA holds further significance as a source that has guided her career ambition to become a travel nurse. On a NWFASA retreat last summer, she learned about a global alliance of Filipino youth that offers medical mission trips to the Philippines. "I knew right then and there that I wanted to get involved," Rabon says. She plans to obtain her nursing degree and use it to empower Filipino youth.
"I also want to go 'home' to Bohol, the island where my family is from, and give back to my family members and local organizations," Rabon says. "One of my long-term goals is to work with my older sister to create a community center in the capital." She envisions this center as a safe place where children and teens can go after school.
"The idea of all of this sounds a little nerve-wracking, being in my fourth and final year of my undergraduate degree," Rabon says, "but I also know that things won't necessarily fall into place right away." She is aware of the work it will take to make yet another dream a reality, but she isn't shying away from the task. She is grateful for her work with FASA and how it has already shaped her future.
"I am aware that being different is OK, and it all boils down to the way you embrace that," Rabon says. "FASA has given me the opportunity to share a little piece of who I am and where I came from."