In His Own Words: Derek Yao
A 13-year-old from Allentown, Pa., Derek Yao was recently recognized with a Middle States Junior Sportsmanship Award. In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month, we asked Derek about his background and what AAPI Month means to him.
“I recently watched a talk show by Jimmy O. Yang, an Asian American comedian. He made a joke about how getting American citizenship didn’t change how people viewed him. He said something along the lines of: “Nobody in any part of the world will come up to me and be like, hey, look, there’s an American!” It got me thinking about what AAPI Heritage Month means to me and my family.
My parents are from China, and they were the first generation to immigrate here. AAPI Heritage Month is good recognition to them and Asian Americans like Jimmy. It honors our race and our background, which I am very thankful for.
I've had some standout moments in my tennis career, and one memory that really sticks out was the experience of starting a tennis club for the Huaxia Chinese School Lehigh Valley community. My brother and I organized tennis clinics and summer camps for young kids who wanted to learn the game. In April, we set up a tennis ladder, which attracted 25 parents and kids to sign up. They played a total of 44 tennis matches in just one month!
Tennis is so remarkable because it brings people from different heritages together. When I started to take tennis lessons, join clinics and play in tournaments, I met with coaches from all over the world. These coaches are from Poland, Japan, Australia, Belgium, Ukraine, India, Jamaica, South Africa, and the United States. They pride themselves in sharing tennis techniques, as well as their stories.
I realized how diverse our tennis community is, and that is what makes it unique. That’s why the AAPI and other similar heritage events are very meaningful.”