I’m excited to announce that I’ve applied for the UC Davis Community Development Masters Program. I hope to future uplift my professional and academic skills so I may uplift my community! I want to publicly share my personal statement - I can also release my statement of purpose if there’s enough interest
I tell my students, “Our stories may be different, but our struggles are all the same”. October 16, 2010, a 16-year old Vietnamese male was shot as an innocent bystander in a gang related drive-by shooting. He died three days later. This young man was a peer mediator at Hiram Johnson High School and aspired to attend UC San Diego and change the world through smiles. His name was Jimmy Le and he was one of my students through a summer internship program I hosted. This would be the moment that cemented my life-long mission and dedication of my being to the liberation of young people and to improve the conditions in which they live, so they may thrive and most importantly to create a community where catastrophes like Jimmy’s do not happen.
Jimmy’s story was very much like my own. My family escaped from the Vietnam War in 1986. They survived the horrid conditions of a Philippines refugee camp for eight months before finding sponsorship to Stockton, California. A year later, we moved to Sacramento; and like Jimmy, I grew up in section 8 housing where my neighbors were largely low income immigrants. My two older brothers dropped out of school in the tenth grade and got involved with gangs. They were incarcerated multiple times, and were absent for the majority of my life. My family barely made ends meets under welfare and food stamps and when things couldn’t get worst; my father abandoned our family of five when I was six years old.
This story seems like an inevitable narrative that leads from rags to incarceration, but the harsh circumstances that were supposed to hold me back became my motivation to succeed. I could have easily fallen into a troubled path as my brothers did, but the strength and sacrifices of my single mother inspired me to get an education and support my family. Even though all my other siblings and extended family were unable to go college because of the financial constraints, I chose to hold the heavy baton of being the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.
Attaining my Masters degree is a part of the continued dedication to better the living conditions for my family and my community. I tell my students that “the only people that can change our communities are ourselves”. After graduating from college, it was imperative for me to go back to the community that I came from and to help young people, like myself and Jimmy, have more chances to succeed. I started working at a nonprofit organization called Asian Resources, Inc to work with underserved youth and increase their access to higher education and job opportunities. I provided youth services through multiple capacities, such as on-site school outreach, drop-in counseling and internship case management. I served on several community boards as a consultant on youth issues such as the Sacramento Asian Pacific Islander Coalition called CAPITAL and the Marginalize Youth Collaborative (MYC). In addition to youth advocacy, I became an active spoken word poet and performed at several community events and conferences throughout California. Poetry has manifested into an extension of my continued mission for social justice and community engagement as all my poems have an educational value. One young person states “I love your poetry…I highly respect your mentality to change the world. Your writings [are] deep within the meaning… you inspire me to write.” It means the world to me when young people relate to my poetry and are inspired to tell their stories.
Becoming a UC Davis Community Development graduate represents a continued stepping stone for my pursuit for social change. Its represents the inspiration of a young man wanted to change the world through smiling. It symbolizes a mother’s sacrifice and love. It represents the resilience of four Vietnamese refugees that left everything and overcame all for this young man to reach this achievement and privilege. I only hope that UC Davis allows me this privilege and opportunity to uplift my skills and experience so I may uplift my community.