Little did Los Altos resident Jason Lin know that one stimulating talk could inspire him to give back to the cause he is passionate about – justice.
“I thought it was time that instead of talking about it in the debate round, maybe I could finally create some change in the real world,” Lin said.
The 16-year-old rising junior at The Harker School recently received recognition for his efforts to address the border crisis. Last August, Lin organized and hosted a benefit concert for the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center that raised $31,000 to help provide legal representation to 300 asylum seekers escaping gender-based violence. With help from student performers – including Juilliard violinist Kevin Zhu and vocalist Millie Lin (Lin’s sister) – and student volunteers, Lin drew more than 200 people to the sold-out event at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View.
In the spring, Lin was honored for his work, named a Distinguished Finalist by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. He received a bronze medallion at an assembly held at his school April 30.
Lin was among nine high school students in California named a Distinguished Finalist. The Harker administration nominated him based on the award criteria, which included a measure of personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
“I was glad to be recognized,” Lin said, “but I also wanted to recognize the people who did it with me.”
Inspired to take action
A talk Lin attended early last summer made him more aware of the border crisis. He heard Morgan Weibel, executive director of Tahirih’s Bay Area office, and was inspired.
“It was a great talk,” said Lin, who attended Bullis Charter School before Harker. “It was a very rousing talk and very emotional, too.”
Lin’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from China, and he said he often heard them discuss the difficulty of coming to live in the “great melting pot.” He likened his parents’ story to the hardship of crossing the border.
“I can only imagine how hard it would be for someone fleeing gender-based violence to go all the way to the border only to get turned away,” Lin said.
Just discussing the border crisis is not enough to improve the condition, he said. That’s why he took action by raising money, with assistance from a student-based team of volunteers and performers, to donate to Tahirih. Lin also put together a communication team of students who worked to produce a website, video and brochure.
Spreading the word
Lin did not expect many people to attend a concert organized by high school students – or get the word out.
“I think it’s very hard to gain traction,” he said. “It’s hard to get into people’s newsfeeds. It’s hard to spread (it by) word-of-mouth.”
The collective effort of advertising the concert paid off, according to Lin.
“The concert was only possible because of the Los Altos community,” he said. “The entire purpose of the concert was to raise awareness in the local community, so the Los Altos community helped us create this and they made it possible.”
Hobby leads to volunteering
Lin’s father, Yabo, said he was impressed but not surprised that his son received recognition for his efforts. He recounted how Lin makes videos as a hobby, including some aimed at raising awareness of school issues that were shown at an assembly at Harker.
“(Jason) used his video-making skill to make the student experience a better one,” the elder Lin said.
The younger Lin added that community service can stem from your own interests.
“Everyone can have something you’re interested in,” he said. “If you’re interested in computer games, maybe you should try building a game yourself. I think (in) almost any field you go into, you’re going to find there are problems in it. And if you’d like to fix that problem, if you’d like to raise awareness or do some work in your community, it’s not as hard as it seems. It’s doable.”