By Carlos Gallego
AAP staff writer
Bloomington, Minn. (July 29, 2012) — According to conference organizers, Buoc Qua means, “Not to give up on coming together, because we have a shared history, we have a shared community . . . and our investment in each other surpasses any individual differences that try to come between us and our future.”
More than 300 students and young professionals from across the United States and Canada attended the conference. It combined leadership development and social justice topics with entertainment, relationship-building and bonding all while reinforcing the importance of community, culture and giving back.
The conference kicked off with social activities allowing its attendees, staff and presenters to connect and get to know one another. The conference in its organization, schedule and richness of topics was exemplary and set an example for other youth, collegiate and young professional events to follow.
Topics included: Civic engagement, media, ethical leadership, environmental justice, family matters: balancing familial obligations, duties and pressure, women’s reproductive rights and LGBT issues.
Linda Son currently serves as internal VP for the University of Florida affiliate. The UF telecommunications major mentioned each year UF sends representatives and that this year she was able to attend. Aside from being able to network and connect with her peers across North America, Ms. Son felt it was a great opportunity to learn about what other chapters are doing and incorporate these strategies to better serve those in her chapter.
Quyen Nguyen serves as the UNAVSA (http://unavsa.org) conference’s Family Program Director. She carefully put together a series of activities throughout the conference intended to build connections between conference participants. Quyen mentioned the conference is not just about attending workshops but also to make having fun and creating networking opportunities for the attendees. Ms. Nguyen is a Psychology and Physical Therapy major at Oklahoma State University.
Thuc Nguyen, an organizer for the conference felt opportunities the conference and UNAVSA offers enriches participants ability to learn about their own culture and history as well as learning how to become leaders in their communities. Nguyen saw this great opportunity for participants to network, make new friends as well as helping their with their career goals.
Although conference attendees primarily were university students, many alumni also attended serving as speakers and sponsors. Thuc felt the gathering providing an incredible opportunity for participants to connect with successful people that will inspire and empower them to make changes within their own communities. Thuc further mentioned although most participants came from areas or universities where there are concentrations of Vietnamese, there are also many who either live in communities or attend institutions when they are either the only Vietnamese or among just a handful.
In these cases the conference provides a tremendous opportunity for them to make important connections that will help them to gain knowledge of what is going on in other communities. This knowledge will be invaluable as they advance their careers and life.
Huy Doung, an alumnus of UNVSA and one of this year’s main conference sponsors funded the Vision Scholarship Program. He resides in San Jose, CA where he works in sales. Mr. Doung graduated from UC – Davis with a degree in genetics and computer engineering.
Doung emphasized his reason for being a part of this organization was to help create a culture of giving back among conference attendees. According to Huy what he most got out of this organization was the understanding of how important community is and how we can helped to define and inspire our youth so that one day they too will return to the community and give back as well.
Megan Chau, a PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option) high school student from Blaine High School, attends the U of MN and majors in Biomedical Engineering. Megan’s father is one of the conference’s sponsors. This first-time attendee saw the conference as a great opportunity to connect with others and network.
Jacklin Nguyen, a conference executive director’s greatest inspiration as a result of the conference was, ‘Seeing the joy on their (attendees) faces as they bonded with others, seeing the sadness when they realized the weekend was coming to an end, seeing them inspired to make a difference and a change in their community made this whole entire process worthwhile.”
Ms. Nguyen sought to reach out to them and show them that they, as individuals, can make a difference, but even more so, if they unite, She stressed their commitment recognizes the youth is their future and UNAVSA strives to ensure they never forget where they came from and always be proud of their culture and heritage.
According to Jacklin one of the conferences (and organization’s) greatest accomplishments was its success in providing attendees the necessary tools and training that will enable them to make a difference in their respective communities. She further noted one of the organization’s long-term goals and its mission is to empower the next generation of Vietnamese youth with self-awareness, passion for change and propensity for leadership.
Jacklin felt she too has grown as a result of her involvement with UNAVSA noting she learned about becoming a better leader, and listening and communicating effectively, “I have learned more about my rich history and culture and to stand up and be proud and that I’m not alone. I know others aren’t given the tools and chance to really step out of their shells and I realized that I want to help them really gain the confidence and show the world what they have to offer as someone with Vietnamese heritage. .. . I am proud to say I am young Vietnamese American woman who will continue to help unite and strengthen our community because I know how much we have to offer.”
Dan Huynh (http://danhuynh.co), President of UNAVSA was also interviewed. Dan found his most gratifying experience as President was being able to work with talented young Vietnamese leaders throughout the continent.” It’s the journey of sharing ideas and skills with one another that make this community and this experience truly unique”, he noted.
During Huynh’s tenure they launched key initiatives supporting both community and leadership development. The first was the creation of the “Continental Agenda,” a comprehensive one-year action plan addressing the Vietnamese community’s most pressing needs.
Huynh noted the needs were defined by their constituents at the previous UNAVSA Conference. They also launched VSAcademy.org, a resource website housing a collection of leadership training content. Content is provided by local and regional Vietnamese youth conferences, as well as UNAVSA he stated.
He too benefited through his UNAVSA involvement commenting, “The most important thing I have gained is the belief apathy in the Vietnamese youth community isn’t really the issue, it’s access (or the lack thereof) to the problems in our community that is the culprit to inaction. UNAVSA’s goal is to break down the barriers of accessibility, and make the issues in our community more relevant to the average Vietnamese American/Canadian.
To that end, we’ve become better at delivering current events via multimedia (video, mobile, and blogging). We work in concert with other Vietnamese and APIA groups to provide constituents resources to become more informed and more active in their local community.”
Once he completes his studies, President Huynh plans to stay involved as mentor/adviser. “The relationship between current members/constituents of UNAVSA and the alumni are vital to our organization’s success. It helps maintain the bridges necessary to shorten shorten generational gaps that are so counter-productive in our community,” he concluded.
UNAVSA and its members have made significant contributions both locally and nationally. To learn more about UNAVSA check them out at: unavsa.org.