UNLV Filipino Association Embraces, Encourages Its Culturally Diverse Membership

Justin Fuller is an member of UNLV’s Filipino American Student Association, which seeks to preserve and celebrate Filipino heritage. He is also African-American.

“What I love about [FASA],” Fuller said, “is that anyone can join, meaning you don’t have to be Filipino or even Asian.” Fuller joined FASA last spring in order to participate in its SportsFest and because he was attracted to the welcoming spirit of the club. But now, he said, the annual sports event has become less significant compared to the comfort he has found with his fellow members.

“I get to go to California to play sports against other [Filipino-affiliated] clubs,” Fuller said. “Overall, I get to have a great time spending it with the people in FASA.” Through his membership in FASA, Fuller has learned that competition is not as important to him as he once thought.

“I consider some FASA members as the friends I always wanted,” he said. “I [would] rather play basketball with them and have a good time than showcase my skills and try harder on the more competitive courts at the recreation center.”

Fitzgerald Pahang, FASA’s president, said the organization is no stranger to diverse membership. He explained that he learned about FASA through another African-American friend who was a member.

“Even though a majority of us are Filipino,” Pahang said, “there are still a lot of different races and ethnicities in FASA such as Irish, Japanese, Mexican and Vietnamese.”

Pahang said he noticed Fuller growing more comfortable with fellow members after last year’s SportsFest.

“When I first met [Fuller], he was kind of shy,” he said. “After [SportsFest], he attended more events and meetings.” Pahang explained that the annual sports event is meant to encourage FASA members to connect with each other and share greater interest in the organization.

“[SportsFest] opens [the members’] mind,” he said, “and helps them realize that FASA is really a warm and open club.”

Fuller said he did not know what to expect from FASA when he joined the organization, but he said that he wanted to feel as though he were a part of something. He said that in high school, he found making friends challenging but that FASA members helped him overcome his insecurities in college.
“I’ve been shy my whole life,” Fuller said. “You experience a lot more things in life, but more importantly, you miss out on a lot of things in life if you’re not willing to be open to new things.”

Pahang said that he is glad that FASA has had such an impact on Fuller’s life.

“[FASA] really wants people to become more outgoing and come in with an open mind,” he said. “We also want them to learn new things about themselves.”
Pahang asserted that FASA’s emphasis on inclusion is a reflection of its members.

“As far as keeping [FASA] open [to everyone], it’s just the members themselves,” he said. “As long as we’re accepting of what we are, [the inclusion] will continue on.”

Source: UNLV Rebel Yell