The Vietnamese American Roundtable is turning into a family title within the South Bay, and on the core of the transformative effort is its first ever govt director, Philip Nguyen.
Nguyen, who served as a part-time program supervisor beginning in 2020, took on the management position final summer time, marking a pivotal level for the rising group.
Nguyen didn’t have plans to use for the highest job, till he watched the scholars he mentored flourish and develop as future neighborhood leaders final summer time and obtained assist from board members. Then he had a change of coronary heart.
“That’s after I felt the decision to accountability,” he advised San José Highlight.
The Vietnamese American Roundtable was based in 2013 and relied primarily on volunteers previous to hiring Nguyen final July. The group typically hosts neighborhood occasions, such because the Tet vacation—which celebrates the Lunar New Yr —and Black April Commemoration—which honors the anniversary of the autumn of Saigon—in addition to civil engagement panels on voter schooling and employment rights.
The Southern California native from Lancaster first realized concerning the Vietnamese American Roundtable throughout his grasp’s program in Asian American research at San Francisco State College. The group’s mission, which locations neighborhood constructing and engagement as guiding rules, resonated with Nguyen instantly.
Two years in the past, Nguyen utilized to be a part-time program supervisor with the hope to translate his educational coaching and background to neighborhood organizing.
“I oftentimes felt a disconnect, like being within the ivory tower,” Nguyen stated of his educational profession. “The job was a possibility for me to have interaction with the neighborhood in a approach that I hadn’t been capable of do earlier than.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the South Bay in March 2020, the group scrambled to maneuver its tasks and actions on-line, together with the group’s summer time youth management program.
Nguyen, solely three months into his job, took the lead. The conversion to on-line was arduous. The group additionally discovered itself on the forefront of combating misinformation—and protecting the Vietnamese neighborhood up to date with COVID information.
“Phillip took these (tasks) and ran with it,” board member Huy Tran stated. “We might see instantly that he was going to be the sort of man who needs to do the job. He actually flourished ready the place the job was about serving others.”
Throughout his time as supervisor, Nguyen helped create a bi-monthly present known as, “VAR on Air,” the place the group discusses packages and providers accessible to residents and important points going through the neighborhood.
“What Phillip doesn’t know, he’s gonna exit and discover the reply,” Christina Johnson, board vp, advised San José Highlight. “He’s already a go getter and he’s at all times attempting to give you inventive options and make issues work.”
A decade of roots
Nguyen, who moved to the Bay Space roughly 10 years in the past, established himself as a distinguished neighborhood organizer. Along with main the Vietnamese American Roundtable, Nguyen additionally teaches Vietnamese American literature and historical past at San Francisco State College, serves as a guide for the Progressive Vietnamese American Group and likewise leads the Union of North American Vietnamese Scholar Associations.
Via totally different occasions and initiatives, Nguyen helps put the Vietnamese American Roundtable on the map, Tran stated. He additionally collaborated with San Jose and led outreach efforts within the Vietnamese American neighborhood throughout the census depend in 2020.
“We’re extremely grateful to have an individual with values and and dedication like Philip,” Tran stated.
East San Jose native Alexander Nguyen stated he knew about Philip earlier than they even met.
“He was very concerned with the neighborhood, so his title was on the market,” stated Alexander Nguyen, who participated within the management program final summer time and has since turn into associates with Philip. “I’ve at all times seen him as a pacesetter.”
For the Vietnamese American Roundtable, Philip Nguyen has been integral to its operation and progress. The group that after relied on volunteers now has a considerable working funds—funded by grants that Philip Nguyen helped herald, Johnson stated. The group’s estimated working funds is $300,000 this 12 months.
“He’s a terrific collaborator, and he’s a very robust grant author,” Johnson stated. “I might love that in the future we turn into an enormous advocacy group for the Vietnamese neighborhood. I’m thrilled that Philip is on the helm of our group to work towards that.”
Six months into his management position, Philip Nguyen stated there’s nonetheless a lot for him to be taught.
“Working with the Vietnamese American neighborhood is extremely tough,” he stated, including the work goes past simply figuring out methods to converse Vietnamese. “It’s about figuring out methods to have interaction or work together with all generations and all sides of the Vietnamese American neighborhood in a approach that we will empower one another. As a result of we’re not leaving anybody behind.”
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or comply with @nguyenntrann on Twitter.