Community service has been an integral part of my life. Growing up in an immigrant / refugee family, we worked with other families in the community to advance ourselves. As such, we interpreted for one another, we walked each other to school, we taught each other music – it was the “village raising a child” theory in practice. We learned to serve one another. It also helped that I studied in seminary where service is critical to our way of life as clergy. CAPAL allowed me the opportunities to have fun while doing good in a different career path.
I first heard about CAPAL from Ron Nerida, a CAPAL board member at the time with whom I worked with at the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the Department of Labor in 2002. Ron described CAPAL as a fun group of young professionals who wanted to provide opportunities for interns and individuals interested in community service. CAPAL’s primary programs at the time were the Washington Leadership Program (WLP) and the summer internship program. We only had about 4-5 interns back then and our budget was very lean, but we had great supporters like State Farm and FAPAC!
I had a fun time as a CAPAL board member in charge of running WLP. The board had about 10-12 members at that time. WLP was around for a few years but its reach was similar to today’s; we had anywhere between 80-250 participants depending on intern schedules. I look back fondly on the times we got food through security each week and carried it upstairs without spilling. I appreciate Larry La of Mei Wah restaurant and John Tinpe of Burma restaurant for all the “low cost” food they provided to us. WLP was usually held in one of the Congressional meeting rooms in Rayburn and security loved us because we fed them too.
Our topics ranged from leadership skills to hot issues of the day like discrimination and admission to colleges and universities. Our speakers ranged from nonprofits, the government and other different industries. They were Democrats and Republicans. Our goal was to expose WLP participants to broad spectrums of knowledge that they may or may not normally have access to or be interested in on a daily basis. I think we were successful in achieving this.
CAPAL remains relevant because it is a training forum for young AAPI board members as well as an opportunity for younger members of the community to perform meaningful community service in a fun networking environment. CAPAL’s board has increased, the number of programs from mentorship for board members and other participants to increasing the number of available internships is a compliment to all the struggles and discussions the various board members have had over the years.
I continue to engage with CAPAL because I enjoyed the growth opportunities I had and want others to have similar opportunities to grow as a leader. I learned to negotiate and not get upset when other board members disagreed with me. CAPAL was a safe place to learn and to test out leadership skills. I am committed to CAPAL and the Champions Circle – it’s a small annual investment for a large return in the quality of AAPI leaders we can support. Please join me in making CAPAL sustainable for future generations by making a donation today.
Hung Nguyen is the Managing Director of HN Consulting, a business process-driven, information management and cyber security consulting firm. He promotes social entrepreneurism, innovation, and philanthropy within the business community and community-based organizations. He works with elected officials, senior government staff, and subject matter experts on policies that promote economic development, entrepreneurship and small business development. He supports service-learning programs, trains young Asian Pacific Americans to have greater leadership roles in their communities, and works on voter empowerment.
Since 2004, he serves on the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission, currently serving as Vice Chair. He has been an appointee of Virginia Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. He was the former Chair of the Governor’s Virginia Asian Advisory Board, Commissioner and Treasurer on the Virginia Governor’s Commission on Community and National Service, Board Member of the America’s Service Commissions, Member of the Virginia 2007 Community Citizen Planning Committee, and the President of the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans.
He serves as an advisor to the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL) and is a member of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem. He is a recipient of the 2007 Who’s Who in Asian American Communities Award and the 2008 Fairfax County Barbara Varon Volunteer Award.
In 2010, Mr. Nguyen staffed the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Fort Hood Independent Review Task Force. In November 2013, he became the first Vietnamese American candidate for the VA House of Delegates in the General Election and received over 45% of the votes.