The daughter of working class Korean immigrants, Esther Chang grew up amidst the diversity and racial tension of 1990s Los Angeles. As a result of discrimination, economic hardship and violence, Esther’s family moved various times before settling in Beverly Hills, where she attended high school. Although she flourished socially, Esther’s grades suffered upon moving from the low-income schools of LA to an affluent and well-funded school system, and it is here where she first became aware of education as a social justice issue.
Determined to attend university, Esther studied for two years at community college before being accepted to UC Berkeley. Majoring in Ethnic Studies, Esther was able to contextualize her life experience through other women, women of color and people of color. It was at UC Berkeley where Esther was able to find her voice to speak out on the social justice issues that impacted her worldview and on the experience of others. In her final year of undergraduate studies, Esther volunteered at Camp Sunburst, a weeklong sleep away camp for children infected or affected with HIV/AIDS. A life-changing experience, Esther felt at home with a diverse group of warm-hearted, caring, free individuals of all backgrounds, gender identities, income levels, races, and professions. The relationships Esther cultivated at Sunburst Projects continue to inform her conduct in daily life, especially in relation to marginalized communities.
After the life-changing experience at Sunburst, Esther knew that she wanted to spend her life working towards creating positive impact. Her exposure to various dialogues of social good and community engagement while working at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Social Venture Network increased her desire to have greater agency in the world. Moving cross-country, Esther was accepted to the prestigious MA program in Arts Politics at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. In the program, she was challenged to think critically of the world in which she existed by considering questions such as, “how do I conduct myself in society?” and “how does the Arts impact daily, civic life?”
After graduation, Esther worked with the socially responsible, woman-owned company ABC Home partnering with Deepak Chopra on the series “Love in Action”, which created a platform to bring together communities of people to highlight issues around fracking, the rejection of corporate patents on seeds, and creating a space for mindfulness in schools and in the workplace. The exposure to mindfulness, meditation, and spiritual well-being through Deepak’s mentorship resonated with Esther’s deep interests in community and social development, and led her to examine her own path to professional, personal and spiritual fulfillment through community engagement.
In order to pursue these interests, in 2013 Esther began a marketing and communications strategy consultancy which allowed her to devote time to meditation, the practice of yoga, and creating impact in the global community. It was in this role that Esther travelled to India to build the country’s first free skateboard park with a local organization, Holystoked, and the Indian government. With time to focus on her personal passions, Esther prioritized her dedication to activism by traveling to Uganda with Healthcare Volunteer Uganda, a sister organization of Sunburst Projects.
On her return to New York City, Esther continued to explore professional and personal mindfulness by undertaking a 200-hour teacher training course at Sivananda Yoga Ranch in 2014 and in 2018 received certification in Reiki 1 and 2 and completed a 300-hour teacher training course in India with Jivamukti Yoga School. With greater exposure to yogic philosophy, nature, and ayurvedic diet, Esther experienced profound spiritual growth that continues to inform her vision for the future, in which she desires to connect with others on their own path to a more mindful, more compassionate relationship to their community, to the environment, and to themselves.
Esther continues to refine her yoga practice and redefine her life path completing an 800-hour Jivamukti Apprenticeship with her beloved teacher Rima Rabbath. Additionally, Esther is a Hospice Volunteer with Visiting Nurse Service of New York and is Associate Producer of A Skate Play, an original skate-theatre production that brings storytelling and skateboarding together across the globe. In the fall of 2018, A Skate Play made its way to Palestine in partnership with Skateqilya skatepark where skaters and actors workshopped the play and provided a week of free and public performance. In May, she will head back to the Middle East, this time as a visiting Jivamukti Yoga teacher at Yoga Souk in Beirut, Lebanon.