CULTIVATING INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY
Everything we are is from the hands of our ancestors. These hands have built the mountain of opportunities of which our feet now rest upon. They are the hands that have lifted us to a point above the horizon where we can look forward with more clarity and light than what their own eyes were allowed.
Alexa Alagon shares how creating and sharing intentional spaces in outdoor experiences allows everyone to find joy and connection. Learn what being a modern-day Asian American Pacific Islander Woman means to her.
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There is a tradition amongst Filipino culture to honor your elders called, ”Amin” (In Visayan, the region of islands which my family is from) or “Mano po” (In Tagalog, the more widely spoken dialect within the archipelago). This greeting is typically extended when entering any shared space. To ask for a blessing, one bows and offers their forehead to the back of the elder’s hand as a sign of respect. “Mano” is Spanish for hand and “po” is added to the end of sentences or phrases to address someone older. Our elders are the first people within the space that we acknowledge and give thanks to.
As a family of immigrants, our life choices and values stem from Collectivist culture, which is deeply ingrained in many Asian and Pacific Island countries. Collectivism centers around the importance of altruism or selflessness and usually consists of deeply intertwined relationships within our extended families, neighbors, and friends. These deep connections allow easy access to a valuable support network of people.
Once resettled into the United States, the western Individualistic culture introduced to our family brought challenges to our parents, who were raising 3 girls (with newfound sass) under one household. Making decisions solely for the greater good can make any young person feel overwhelmed but with some positive exposure, I discovered the great power of autonomy.
I made the decision to forge my own path and explore the potential of who I wanted to become, which led me to Northern Michigan. Much to the confusion of my immigrant parents, I spent 4.5 years chasing a Bachelor’s Degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management with a minor in environmental studies and sustainability. Living on the freshwater coast of Lake Superior provided endless opportunities to discover what I truly valued in a vibrant cultural community and the importance of reciprocal relationships—both from the land and the people around me.
My journey at NMU has led me to my line of work in outdoor equity and community engagement. I came to the realization that whatever is missing from the community you are part of, be the one to build the bridge and welcome others over because there are always individuals seeking that connection who just don’t know where to begin. My life mission is to share the joy I felt my first time in a curated outdoor experience with other people and families, like mine, who may not have the resources or support to access it safely and courageously.
Now, I currently reside in the Front Range of Colorado; the traditional lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute People, working with 2 non-profit organizations that allow historically underrepresented and systemically marginalized communities to connect with one another through human-powered adventures.
My main role is serving as the Denver Programs and Community Coordinator for the Chill Foundation, a youth-development organization founded by Jake and Donna Carpenter, co-founders of Burton Snowboards. Chill operates sites in 24 cities in 10 countries running snowboarding, skateboarding, SUP and surf programs around the world. We partner with social service agencies, mental health agencies, foster care programs, juvenile justice programs, and schools in local communities.
In addition, I work part-time at Women’s Wilderness, an outdoor expedition organization based in Boulder, CO as a Lead Instructor for our Outdoor G.I.R.L.S (Girl Immigrant and Refugee Leadership Series) that empowers 2nd generation, immigrant and asylee young people to foster bravery and compassion with outdoor excursions and experiential learning.
Navigating 2020 forced me to face some deeply embedded grief and reckoning not only with my own identity as an AAPI Woman, but came with lots of necessary unpacking of what it means to be an immigrant in this country. Creating, nurturing, and experiencing unapologetic joy in nature with others tuning into their own intersectional identities has given me the most freedom and release in my own mental health journey.
I truly believe that the biggest gift given to all of us from the past few years of turmoil and trauma is that despite the things that seem unfixable or helpless in our society, there are still so many acts of service and love we can exchange to one another that can truly move mountains.