By Holly Speck
Sunshine Cho has a confession to make. Before she was a rising sophomore at the University of California, San Diego, 7-year-old Shine ‘borrowed’ her father’s credit card and subscribed to a two-year TIME Magazine subscription. Luckily, Shine’s father pardoned the young Shine after she plead temporary insanity due to her thirst for knowledge of current events and lack of knowledge about credit card billing statements.
After apologizing to her father and halting the use of his credit card, Shine further developed her love of current events that were “as entertaining [to her] as Legos were to the next kid.” Unfortunately, her love of current events and her questions pertaining to them seemed to be permanently locked up in the inaccessible world of ‘grown-up.’
After Shine’s opinions and queries were met with a never-ending stream of “This is for adults,” she decided to find her own answers. At age thirteen, Cho created a news blog called Yolitical, short for Young and Political. Within this blog, Shine simplified complex issues so that she and her peers could more easily understand politics. She thought if the political-jargon ridden language was made easier to understand, perhaps more young people would take an interest.
Cho’s first stories included an extensively researched piece on the hypocrisy of Meg Whitman, a Republican candidate for California governor in 2010, who condemned the presence of undocumented immigrants, yet utilized cleaning services of undocumented people for her home. In addition, Cho’s pieces discussed the DREAM Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, breaking down the complicated elements of each.
Now, as media is “going through an awkward, puberty-like stage” as Cho artfully put it, her love of journalism and politics has not faded, and her other interests have become more in-focus. As media fights to remain objective, while also engaging, Cho will fight for those affected by current immigration law and education policy.
As a first generation immigrant, Cho’s childhood experiences were shaped by immigration and the public education system. As her parents struggled to acquire legal status, Shine acted as a full-time translator for important paperwork that this change of status depended on. Today she would like to act as a resource for those suffering through the same struggles.
As a student, Cho noticed the education system was designed to help students, yet lacked consultation with the students themselves. Cho would love to create a more equitable and conversational education system for students of all ages, genders and nationalities.
Overall, Sunshine Cho wants to level the playing fields of two very complicated systems by seeking out the truths of each. Cho’s dream job would involve investigative reporting work that ties in her two interests (if possible!).
This SPLC fellow plans to listen as much as she inspires with her fall fellowship project. Cho believes sometimes starting the conversation is the most important, and often the most difficult, part. She urges young female journalists to not doubt themselves and to fight to unleash “the strength you have through voicing your opinions.”