As an ethnically Chinese, born and raised New Zealander currently studying in the United States, Aileen considers herself as a true millennial. She has recently completed the International Baccalaureate Program, and currently studies at Babson College.
Aileen discovered her voice in middle school. After thirteen years suffering from atopic dermatitis, She finally became an advocate for herself, and finding relief for the first time, She realized how empowering it is to take charge.
For the last two years, she has been on Auckland Council Youth Advisory Panel. And while she is doing her best to represent the 220,000 15 to 24-year olds in Auckland, as one of a handful of youth representatives, they can hardly represent the voices of so many. Therefore, they developed the “Make Auckland Awesome” campaign which solicited feedback from over 6,000 youth on how Auckland can better support our demographic. They now educate and engage youth in the democratic process, help youth get jobs, influence laws and regulations, and promote healthy eating, among other things.
In 2015, a few of them from the Panel, including Aileen, wrote a 6000-word paper - "Powershift: Youth Reclaim Democracy in Auckland" for the Community Development Conference. With over 200 delegates from 13 countries in attendance, they shared their vision for a youth-led movement. Using Shier’s Pathway, the paper outlines how the Auckland Council provides a platform for youth to contribute to decision-making by creating opportunities that support youth participation. Their next challenge is to shift this version of youth participation from reliance on council-facilitation toward a truly youth-led movement.
Finding one’s voice is what matters to Aileen. Once the power and position of influence are realised amongst young people, a shift in the decision-making power can occur, helping young Aucklanders (and potentially all millennial around the world) affect their lives for the better.
Ultimately, Aileen hopes to utilitize her international mindset, global networks, and worldwide experiences to uncover new ways to improve the quality of life for millions of people around the globe.
Please feel free to reach out to Aileen via LinkedIn (https://nz.linkedin.com/in/aileenzhou)