Hi everyone! It’s your CORR here, April! It’s been one month after the annual UNAVSA leadership conference, and we wanted to highlight the voices of attendees from the New England region at UNAVSA-14: Unlock The Present:
The Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA) hosted the 14th Annual Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Students and young professionals from across the continent gathered to hear keynote speakers and panelists speak about their experiences and share their passion for Asian-American representation, empowerment and engagement to motivate and inspire leaders within the North American Vietnamese community. We also gathered for regional photos at the Gala Awards: Moonlight Masquerade, pictured below!
Hear some conference highlights from our members:
Julie Tran: “One of the things that I always look forward to is opening ceremony because it sets the mood for the rest of the conference. Everyone who attends opening ceremony can feel the hype through the speeches, regional chants and the performances. It gives the attendees a feel on what to expect for the rest of the conference!”
Jenny Tran: “UNAVSA-14 was an impactful weekend for me! I learned so much and met so many incredible people. I cant wait for UNAVSA-15 in ATL!”
Augustus Seabrooke: “My experience with UNAVSA-14 was amazing. Everyone was so eager to learn about leadership and dedicate themselves to meeting all kinds of people from all different backgrounds. I think my most favorite part was how respectful and supportive everyone was of each other.”
Quang Le-Huynh: “My favorite programming was the Resource Fair. Not only did the attendees get to meet some amazing organizations, but also had the opportunity to bombard alumni’s with questions about life after graduation, work, “adulting”, etc. The relationships I’ve made from my conference experience over the past few years is something I’ll always hold dearly. I was on the Entertainment Committee for UNAVSA-12 in Seattle, and still to this day, my old committee still talk, meet up somewhere in the country on trips, and whenever we see each other, we don’t skip a beat.”
We also had 3 members serve as Family Leaders:
“I was looking forward to giving back to the conference I’ve enjoyed since UNAVSA-11 by serving as a family leader for the second time in a row and helping the other family leaders, many of whom were first-time attendees. I was blown away by the #sexysixteen this year as they were definitely some of the most driven and overall amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to meet.”
– Matthew Zin, Lion King Family Leader, pictured here with other family leaders
“This conference was special to me. I was family leader to my beautiful Toy Story family and quite frankly I wasn’t expecting my heart to be this full post conference. I walked into UNAVSA ’14, dreading that I might mess up someone’s conference experience, and I wasn’t a perfect family leader, but I learned a great deal as someone who partook in that role. So needless to say, I had a great time!”
– My-Ngan Tran, Toy Story Family Leader
“Since I was to be the family leader for the Finding Nemo family, I was actually very excited (and also very nervous) about meeting my new Nemotodes! I had spent so many weeks prior to prepare everything, whether it be working on my family’s apparel or trying to get to know my kids more, and I just could not wait to show off all my hard work and meet the people whom I would be able to call my very own kids!”
– Bonnie To, Finding Nemo Family Leader, holding her first place prize Kingdom Hearts keys to “Unlock The Present!”
Our Take Me to UNAVSA-14 scholarship winner, Travis Tran had this to say about the conference:
I go to a school with no VSA or culture group so it was really cool to go to a conference like UNAVSA and connect with so many young Vietnamese Americans who are extremely passionate about our native culture. The energy level is through the roof… For someone like me who doesn’t have a VSA at their school: it’s a great opportunity to meet and network with people who may be just as passionate or even more so than you about the Vietnamese culture. Ultimately it’s about coming together with people who you share common roots with and learning how to better embrace a culture we may have overlooked and taken for granted having grown up in America, and UNAVSA does a great job bringing those native roots front and center.
The next time you’re in NOLA, try out some of these recommended foods:
Julie Tran: I highly recommend Cafe Du Monde for their beignets and frozen coffee. One of the most memorable meals I had was shrimp and grits at Surrey’s. Although New England brags about having the best seafood, I believe New Orleans is pretty close!
April Nguyen: If you get the chance to explore, I’d recommend taking advantage of the happy hour specials all throughout the city! We found 25c raw oysters and po’ boys everywhere, but my favorite would have to be chargrilled oysters, which are marinated in butter, lemon juice, parsley, garlic and cheese – top that with some bread and it was absolutely delicious!
My-Ngan Tran: In terms of food – I had this bomb pho tai at Lilly’s Cafe in Louisiana.
Sunny Nguyen: Seafood gumbo at this really quaint place where the crowd was super chill and the jazz band was swinging.
Interested in attending next year? Our attendees shared the following advice:
“It’s definitely a great opportunity to bring back leadership qualities and new ideas to help benefit your VSA’s and reinforce the things that are going well for you, as well as improve on some things that aren’t. It definitely may seem a bit out of your comfort zone, but it’s well worth it!”
– Travis Tran
“This year’s conference was such an amazing experience and I honestly believe that it was the highlight of my summer. UNAVSA-14 changed my perspective completely. Not only did I meet so many friendly faces from every single region, I came out of conference with so many people that I consider as my gia dinh and I could not be happier. If there is anyone even thinking about attending conference at all, take my word and just do it because you will have the time of your life!”
– Bonnie To
“If you want to see how VSAs operate across the continent as well as meet lifelong friends, look no further than the next UNAVSA!”
– Matthew Zin
See your New England IVSA executive board in action:
Val Chaves, NEIVSA President: “What I most looked forward to was the workshops! If there’s anything that can provide an attendee with more knowledge and help them better their skills, it’s the quality conference programming that’s offered every year. My favorite experience during conference was being able to lead the New England region and getting to know our members better. Besides UNAVSA-13 which was hosted in our own region, our presence at UNAVSA conferences have grown steadily each year. Our representation keeps getting better and I’m incredibly excited to see where we’ll be in the next few years.”
Sunny Nguyen, NEIVSA Treasurer: “The conference was truly an out-of-body experience for myself. I strengthened a lot of old connections while making new ones to boot. And, my favorite part of UNAVSA-14, by far, were the workshops. Being in such a politically charged era, I always enjoy learning about different perspectives and how to increase my participation in the Vietnamese and general AAPI community.”
Tiffany Tran, NEIVSA Secretary: “The highlight of my UNAVSA-14 experience was being able to see my two siblings go through their own UNAVSA experience. The VSA community has given me so much and has given me the confidence and skills to pursue higher leadership positions in not only NEIVSA and UNAVSA, but in my other extracurriculars and professional life. I’m so happy that my siblings were able to see why UNAVSA means so much to me and why I keep coming back every year.”
April Nguyen, Council of Regional Representatives: “I love working with UNAVSA because I believe in their message of compassion and commitment to the community, and my favorite part of working with staff is serving on the Collective Philanthropy Project Selection Committee for the past 5 years. It’s an amazing experience to see it all come together during the Selection Session at conference and voting for the next beneficiary with the other 300 attendees, and I can’t wait to see how far we go in the future! The pride in our heritage enables us to achieve more than we ever thought was possible, and I feel so honored to have met everyone at UNAVSA-14!”
Congratulations to the 2017-2018 Collective Philanthropy Project beneficiary, Pacific Links Foundation! Members of the greater UNAVSA community came together to deliberate between the top 3 finalists during the CPP Selection Session, and we are beyond excited to work with such a wonderful organization dedicated to ending human trafficking through education and empowerment.
For more information on Pacific Links Foundation, visit pacificlinks.org.
For additional information on getting involved with UNAVSA or the annual leadership conference, please contact your Regional Representative, April Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org.