Imagine If... all women of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage had access to quality educational, leadership, and professional opportunities
Lillie Madali is a proud member of Delta Phi Lambda Sorority. DPhiL advocates for Asian awareness and empowers women leaders through its values-based programs and everlasting sisterhood. In the spirit of this mission, Lillie founded The Delta Phi Lambda Foundation, Inc. The nonprofit advocates for the women of Delta Phi Lambda and the communities they serve by funding scholarships and promoting leadership education. The Foundation explicitly aims to alleviate disparities experienced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (A.A.P.I.) by enhancing opportunities for women to become educated and empowered.
Lillie describes her upbringing as a key motivation. She says “growing up in a first generation Filipino household, I witnessed how hard my mother worked to support her family and how dedicated she was to pay it forward to her younger brothers and sisters. The moment she got a job, she began to help all 11 of her younger siblings go to college.” Lillie’s mother admonished her to view opportunity as a responsibility to help others. This is the philosophy that Lillie hopes to advance through the Foundation. She adds, “I believe it’s important for AAPI women, men and allies to support the development of young women in college and women who are building careers”.
A key concern for the Foundation is the misleading stereotype that AAPI are an affluent population that does not need support. However, according to the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (A.P.I.A.S.F.) many AAPI ethnic groups have educational levels below the national average and experience high poverty rates that often go unacknowledged. Students often battle a scarcity of leadership opportunities and are overlooked in leadership development programs on college campuses.
Jemi Puno received one of the Foundation scholarships while studying at Illinois State University. The additional funds helped cover expenses for study abroad in Japan. “I am grateful for the opportunities to immerse in Japanese language and culture,” Jemi says. The payoff was huge. After graduating, in 2013, with a degree in East Asian Studies and a minor in Business Administration, Jemi joined UNIQLO, a Japan-based clothing brand. To show her appreciation and support for the mission, she is raising money for additional scholarships that help sisters study abroad.
When asked how she measures success, Lillie says, “I know my organization has succeeded when women are able to take the skills they learn and apply them in leadership positions. My vision of success is to see a culture of generosity and mentorship, one where past scholarship recipients return to the organization and pay it forward for future generations.”
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