Who is Making Asian American Pacific Islander History in 2021: The GMA Inspiration List

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of one of the fastest-growing groups of people living in the United States. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders contain multitudes. They are a global community with a homegrown and unique perspective on America.

Their diversity expands continents and demographics. The hopes and dreams of the AAPI community are America at its finest, and its people and traditions are those that are tightly stitched into the fabric of the nation. The American dream is alive and well within the AAPI community, and we’ve gathered so many of those dreams here throughout this inspiring list of individuals.

We’re publishing The GMA Inspiration List as the community asserts its voice — speaking out and standing up as anti-Asian violence has spread amid the COVID-19 pandemic; defining itself on its own terms; and increasing awareness of their collective history and future in the United States.

The month of May is a time to remember those who have enriched the community and others with knowledge, pride and respect. We recognize that work, those struggles and the vision for the future of the AAPI community, and reflect on the idea that their history is at the heart of American history.

Welcome to the GMA INSPIRATION LIST: Who’s Making AAPI History Right Now?

Good Morning America and ABC News asked influential AAPI leaders, celebrities, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, athletes and more to nominate fellow members of the community for the list. It’s important to note: the vastness of the AAPI community means it has deep ties in countries of origin, which includes the rich Asian global diaspora. To honor the global community, we’ve provided space for nominators who do not identify as American. Most of the nominations on the list are rising stars on the cusp of becoming household names, whose influence, we believe, will become monumental. They are those who are doing the work, gaining success and sharing their talent … and making history right now.

America, meet the next generation of AAPI excellence. James Hong nominates Chris Naoki Lee

As an actor who has been a part of this business for nearly 70 years, it has been inspiring to see the rise in work from the Asian community, and I am proud to acknowledge Chris Naoki Lee as an up and coming artist. This industry certainly tries to put you in a box, or tries to make you stay in your own lane, but just as I had learned to weave my career into what it is today, I see Chris making similar bold choices as well. Not only does he work as an actor, but he continues to adapt and evolve in the fields of writing, directing, and producing. […]

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Mental health: the new top priority

Mental health: the new top priority

Kai Humphrey, 9, has been learning from home for more than a year. He badly misses his Washington, D.C., elementary school, along with his friends and the bustle of the classroom.

“I will be the first person ever to have every single person in the world as my friend,” he said on a recent Zoom call, his sandy-brown hair hanging down to his shoulder blades. From Kai, this kind of proclamation doesn’t feel like bragging, more like exuberant kindness.

But when Kai’s school recently invited him back, he refused. That’s because his worry list is long, topped by his fear of getting COVID-19 and giving it to his 2-year-old sister, Alaina. She was born with a heart condition, Down syndrome and a fragile immune system. To her, the disease poses a mortal threat, and he is her protector, the only one who can make her giggle breathlessly.

Kai also worries about being separated from his mom, Rashida Humphrey-Wall. His biological father died in 2014, and she remains his rock, his mama bear and occasional taekwondo partner. He sometimes visits her bedside in the middle of the night just to check on her.

This pandemic has been stressful for millions of children like Kai. Some have lost a loved one to COVID-19, and many families have lost jobs, their homes and even reliable access to food. If that stress isn’t buffered by caring adults, it can have lifelong consequences.

“Children have had extended exposure to chaos, crisis and uncertainty,” said Dr. Matt Biel, a child psychiatrist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

But there’s some good news for children like Kai: Educators across the country said their top priority right now isn’t doubling down on math or reading — it’s helping students manage pandemic-driven stress.

“If kids don’t return to school and get a lot of attention paid to security, safety, predictability and reestablishing of strong, secure relationships, (they) are not gonna be able to make up ground academically,” Biel said.

To reestablish relationships in the classroom — and help children cope with the stress and trauma of the past year — mental health experts say educators can start by building in time every day, for every student, in every classroom to share their feelings and learn the basics of naming and managing their emotions. Think morning circle time or, for older students, homeroom.

At Irene C. Hernandez Middle School in Chicago, teacher Lilian Sackett starts off each day by checking in with students, then diving into a short lesson on mindfulness and other social-emotional skills.

“We need to allow the students to share their experiences with the pandemic and to give them that safe space (to) talk about it,” Sackett said.

What’s more, she said, children can benefit a lot from just a few minutes each day of classwide calm. When she found out her students love Bob Ross and his tranquil, televised painting lessons from the 1980s and ’90s, Sackett decided to work him into their morning routine.

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Prof Narayanan's Research Teaches AI To Find Anyone's Emotional State By Voice

Prof Narayanan’s Research Teaches AI To Find Anyone’s Emotional State By Voice

Human voice is a rich medium with which we not only communicate our wants and needs and intent but it’s also a very special way of expressing our emotions and identity in emerging times where AI is increasingly becoming part of our lives, people want to use that to interact with other digital systems not only for transactional purposes, such as asking about weather, but more so as a social companion for elderly Human speech is rather special as it carries information about our intent, emotions, identity and several other data, like our health state A true AI system, therefore, should not only recognise the intonational properties of human speech, the words we speak and the way we interact but also take into account the nonverbal cues It’s almost like a painting, where we mix different basic colours to create a landscape with different possibilities.

Shrikanth Narayanan is a Professor at the University of Southern California and an interdisciplinary engineer-scientist with a focus on human-centered signal processing and machine intelligence as well as informatics with speech and spoken language processing at its core.

A prolific award-winning researcher, educator and inventor, with hundreds of publications to his credit, his work translates to using speech and audio to identify mental health and wellness issues, analyzing the health and stress level of workers and developing AI tools for understanding how stories are told in film and TV from a social lens. Flickr So sit back, plug in your headphones, tune in to your favourite lo-fi channel and read on this interesting conversation that we had with Professor Narayanan.

What do we understand about voice as a medium of communication in the age of AI?

Human voice is a rich medium with which we not only communicate our wants and needs and intent but it’s also a very special way of expressing our emotions and identity. And spoken language in humans is particularly remarkable. It allows us to easily communicate all our thoughts, ideas and desires through voice; and in emerging times where AI is increasingly becoming part of our lives, people want to use that to interact with other digital systems not only for transactional purposes, such as asking about weather, but more so as a social companion for elderly and learning systems for children. Representative image While today’s AI like Echo, Siri and Google Assistant does an outstanding job of word recognition and analysis, its dependence on speech alone is an inherent limitation–it, kind of, seems mechanical. When can we have an AI system that is truly capable of sensing and reacting to a user’s emotions?

Human speech is rather special as it carries information about our intent, emotions, identity and several […]

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Adolescent Brains Are Wired to Want Status and Respect: That’s an Opportunity for Teachers and Parents

Adolescent Brains Are Wired to Want Status and Respect: That’s an Opportunity for Teachers and Parents

Credit: Alison Seiffer Here is a parable for our time: There once was an adult who wanted to encourage eighth graders to eat healthier food. The adult designed a lesson plan full of nutritional information—why fruit and vegetables are good for you, why junk food is bad for you, and so on. A similar approach had worked with younger children. But the eighth graders declared the intervention—and, if we’re being honest, the adult—boring. They carried on eating junk food, some of them in greater quantities than they had before.

Versions of that story play out in real life all the time, although the age of the adolescents varies, and the goal could be anything from reducing bullying or depression to increasing engagement with math. With discouraging regularity, researchers find that what works with younger children is no longer effective with adolescents. Eighth grade seems to be the inflection point.

If we thought more carefully about what it is to be an eighth grader, however, down to the level of changes in the brain, our parable could have a happier ending. Thirteen-year-olds are concerned with status and respect—these kids do not want to feel patronized by adults. In a study published in 2019 in Nature Human Behaviour, instead of nutritional information, researchers showed more than 300 eighth graders in Texas investigative reports revealing that food company executives use unhealthy ingredients, target young adolescents in their marketing, and won’t let their own children eat their products. The students were outraged and began to see healthy eating as a way of taking a stand against being manipulated. For the next three months the students made healthier snack purchases in the cafeteria. And in a follow-up study, the researchers found that the students, especially boys, with higher levels of testosterone (a marker of pubertal maturation in both boys and girls) were most likely to respond well to the intervention. Advertisement Over the past 15 years neuroscience has dramatically changed our understanding of the structural and functional changes in the brain during adolescence, which runs from around the age of 10 all the way into the mid-20s. It is a time of rapid brain growth and neuronal fine-tuning when young people are especially sensitive to social cues and rewards. More recent research has focused on how the adolescent brain interacts with the social environment. It shows that social context and acceptance strongly influence behavior. Adolescence might even constitute a sensitive period for social and emotional learning, a window of time when the brain is uniquely primed by neurochemical changes to make use of social cues for learning.

A growing group of researchers and clinicians see these neuroscientific findings as a chance to do things differently. When a […]

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Grit matters when a child is learning to read, even in poor South African schools

School quality is important in determining children’s success at school. But individual characteristics of the child also play a role. In particular, researchers and teachers are starting to pay more attention to the part that social and emotional skills play in academic success. These are also known as character skills or soft skills.

This interest in the “softer” side of learning stems from a movement in economics. It looks for statistical evidence of the importance of soft skills in a number of domains, including the labour market and even marriage.

One question this research hasn’t answered yet is whether social and emotional skills also matter in contexts where resources are severely lacking. It’s known from high-income countries that these skills are important for student achievement.

But are they important in schools that don’t have basic instructional materials, or when a child’s teacher lacks content knowledge and pedagogical skill? Is there a benefit to having these skills when there’s limited time and opportunity to learn in the school day?

I set out to answer these questions, looking specifically at the skill of grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. I examined the association between grit and reading achievement among 2,300 pupils in poorly resourced South African schools.

South Africa’s reading achievement is notoriously poor. The 2016 round of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study showed that 78% of Grade 4 children could not read. When children at this level can’t read, they can’t learn anything in the curriculum.

My study is the first to estimate the relationship between grit and reading among primary school learners in an African context. I found that grit was the strongest predictor of reading achievement, regardless of the influence of other factors at home and school. Grit is indeed associated with academic achievement, even in schools with very few resources.

I also found that school characteristics interact with grit to produce learning outcomes. These findings have important implications for education policy makers and practitioners.

They suggest that focusing on social and emotional skills such as grit may help more children to succeed in school. But also, the findings show that efforts to improve “soft” skills shouldn’t detract from efforts to reduce inequalities in education systems.

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How the busiest people get ‘deep work’ done

For busy people, finding time for uninterrupted work may feel utterly unrealistic. But there are methods we can use to optimise what limited ‘deep work’ time we have.

Like many parents, when schools shut down due to Covid-19, Elizabeth Hunter found herself with more caregiving responsibilities as her three children transitioned to 100% remote classes. But her job also ramped up; as co-founder of bespoke science curriculum provider STEMTaught, the California-based Earth scientist had to figure out how her programme could remain hands-on in a virtual environment as well as work across time zones with authors and publishers to push out new editions of study materials faster.

Like many parents, when schools shut down due to Covid-19, Elizabeth Hunter found herself with more caregiving responsibilities as her three children transitioned to 100% remote classes. But her job also ramped up; as co-founder of bespoke science curriculum provider STEMTaught, the California-based Earth scientist had to figure out how her programme could remain hands-on in a virtual environment as well as work across time zones with authors and publishers to push out new editions of study materials faster.

Combining this increased workload – which included logistical components, like assembling and shipping learning kits, and scheduling online laboratory sessions with students – with her children’s schooling left few windows of quiet time in which she could really concentrate. Hunter started getting everyone to bed early and working late into the night to eke out some quiet time for creative work composing her curriculum, while tackling the more practical tasks during the day.

“I set a rule for myself. If the kids are sleeping and it’s not too late, instead of washing the dishes or doing housework; I’m working. I guard those stretches of time like diamonds – they’re so precious for me to be able to do my deep-thinking work,” she says.

It’s a challenge many of us are facing: we’re busier than ever, but still need pockets of uninterrupted time to do the work that requires our deepest focus. Popular theories suggest our most worthwhile work only happens after ‘Kondo-ing’ our distractions – that jettisoning mind clutter nudges us towards a flow state, an idyllic productivity paradise where creativity thrives. Before Covid-19, we might have used dedicated hours at the office or naturally productive peak hours when kids were at school to try and access ‘the zone’ for these concentration-heavy tasks.

Right now, accessing that kind of deep work zone can feel nearly impossible. If you’re busy with multiple tasks, finding a solid chunk of time for uninterrupted productivity may be utterly unrealistic. Fortunately, there are methods to optimise the limited ‘deep work’ time we have, plan for interruptions and produce meaningful work despite competing demands for our attention.

Separate tasks

There are multiple recommendations for creating an environment that will help you produce your best work.

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, suggests that most distractions are ‘controllable’ external stimuli that can be eliminated by grand gestures, such as checking into a hotel room to work, or quitting social media. Popular productivity app Trello recommends finding a place without people in your peripheral vision and investing in noise-cancelling headphones. Steven Kotler, executive director of the Flow Research Collective, a research and training organisation, recommends 90- to 120-minute chunks of uninterrupted focus in order to maximise flow.