Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center

Asian Counseling and Referral Service’s Civic Engagement Fellow – Engaging the API Community (2016)


Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization offering a broad array of human services and behavioral health programs to Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in King County. Its mission is to promote social justice and the well-being and empowerment of AAPIs and other underserved communities – including immigrants, refugees, and American-born – by developing, providing and advocating for innovative, effective and efficient community-based multilingual and multicultural services.

ACRS began in 1972, when a small group of AAPI community members, volunteer social workers and students came together to address the mental health needs of AAPIs. Due to language and cultural barriers, many people were not able to access appropriate services from mental health providers. When they did, they were at risk of being misdiagnosed or receiving inappropriate care from counselors or psychiatrists who were not familiar with their culture or who could not speak their language. As in its grassroots beginnings, ACRS has grown and developed programs and services in direct response to community needs. Today, it helps over 27,000 primarily low-income AAPIs of all ages. Most of its 240+ person staff members speak the same languages and come from the same cultures as ACRS’ clients, making their transitions easier and successful outcomes more likely. With these shared experiences in transitioning from their native countries to the U.S., many are regarded as leaders within their respective ethnic communities.


Fellowship Position

The Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community is disproportionately underrepresented in politics, nationally and locally. Despite being a fast-growing community, less than half of the API community is registered to vote; this is the lowest registration rate of any community of color in Washington State. APIs are also underrepresented in voting power; they make up over 10% of Washington State’s population and 7% of the electoral vote – but less than 40% of APIs in Washington voted during the 2014 election. When APIs are not registered to vote or are not voting, a huge lack of political representation is sustained and the policies that impact API’s daily lives may not include their perspectives. As such, there is an extreme need for the community to increase its political representation – to be seen and heard in the political context – so that its experiences of structural and institutional racism diminish. The Fellow will work with ACRS to explore the many barriers to voter turnout, and help empower the community to develop a strong political voice.

The Fellow will:

  • Help train ACRS staff on voter registration, voter education, and the act of voting;
  • Support leadership development amongst ACRS’ clients and community members by: a) recruiting and leading a group of 10 young adult API community leaders to serve as civic liaisons, b) creating a 2-month civic training workshop series on topics such as why civics matter, how to register to vote, how to help someone vote, how to stay non-partisan, etc., and c) fostering a sense of community amongst the liaisons.
  • Help coordinate civic engagement activities such as Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Day;
  • Lead a visibility campaign and distribute educational resources to increase API civic engagement;
  • Assist in data entry to help track community engagement.


The ideal candidate will have interest and skills in these areas:

  • Strong written and verbal communications skills
  • Previous experience with community organizing
  • A sense of social justice principles
  • Basic knowledge of the API community

Encouraged but not required:

  • Bi-lingual skills in any Asian or Pacific Islander language
  • A Washington State driver’s license