For Hunster Yang, a fourth-year Neuroscience student, volunteering and extra-curricular involvement has become a staple of his day-to-day life. Through a careful balance of demanding academics and extra-curricular activities, Yang has discovered some of his true passions in life.
Yang’s interest in volunteer work began at the age of 15 while he was in high school. It was during that time that he and three of his friends noticed an educational gap in the Markham, Ontario area regarding Indigenous culture resources and knowledge.
“The four of us made a commitment to help educate ourselves and others by starting a non-profit organization called Aboriginal Youth Partnership (AYP),” said Yang.
The AYP aims to fundraise and support Aboriginal youth well-being and education. Yang, who serves as the AYP Director of Public Relations, has helped organize numerous events and workshops that have connected Indigenous groups with youth in the York Region community.
“AYP coordinated a Change for Change event where we raised money for a non-profit organization called One Laptop Per Child Canada. Throughout the three-week fundraiser, we raised a total of $3,400, which amounted to 21 tablets to support Indigenous youth,” said Yang.
After coming to Western University, Yang followed his passions and joined the Autism Awareness Western (AAW) club at Western University. AAW organizes various events to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and raises awareness about ASD at Western and in the London community.
Yang has been a part of AAW for two years. During this time, he worked as a Community Outreach Coordinator and he finished off this academic year as the Vice President of Events.
Many of the extra-curricular roles that Yang is so passionate about involve meeting new people and organizing fun and engaging initiatives to promote the causes he cares about most.
“I think I just fell into these positions naturally,” explained Yang. “Not only have I been able to do what I love, but I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself from these volunteer positions. I think it’s the area of expertise that comes to me most naturally.”
His involvement with AAW also complements some of his academic research interests. He has been working as a Research Assistant at the Social Brain Lab, which is associated with the Department of Psychology and The Brain and Mind Institute. Working under the supervision of Dr. Adam Cohen and his graduate student, Nellie Kamkar, Yang explores various research questions regarding the development of theory of mind and categorization learning.
Looking to the future, Yang is excited to take on the role of President of AAW for the upcoming year. His planning has already started and he looks forward to continuing the Sharing Stories initiative which will help create a platform for open discussions and opportunities to educate the community.
“I am thrilled to have the honour of being the President of AAW for the upcoming academic year. I have seen this club grow exponentially these past two years, and it has been amazing to be a part of the growth, as well as witness the successes of AAW,” said Yang. “I am so excited to see this club grow further next year by going beyond autism awareness, and moving toward promoting neurodiversity.”