Mark Dong is a rising junior studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics with a concentration in Government and Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. This summer Mark is an intern at the USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service.
When I first got the email that I was accepted into the program and internship, the only emotion I felt was relief. I was simply grateful that all the work I put into applying to internships my entire winter break came into fruition. Upon attending CAPAL sponsored events and working at my location within the NRCS, I discovered that this internship is more than just a single summer opportunity. I realized after attending Happy Hour, Orientation, WLPs, and Cohort sessions that the CAPAL program is not just a network spanning almost 30 years, but a lifetime community of like-minded individuals. At every event I saw not just board members and interns, but also retired board members, past interns, and funders who all had deep connections to this program. Something I kept saying to myself the first two weeks of internship was how much of an honor it was to be a part of this organization. When I first received my acceptance, I did not think about how much this summer would impact my future aspirations and career, but being a part of CAPAL I see testimonies everywhere of the amazing work that CAPAL engineered. It is an honor to be a part of a legacy that continues to spur government action and develop AANHPI leaders. It is an honor to be with a passionate cohort who all strive for change in America. CAPAL is nothing that I expected, and I think that made it perfect.
Why is public service important to you?
First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, and Communication are among just a few required Merit Badges for prospective Eagle Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program aims to instill quality leadership skills and active participation within government. I was a Boy Scout and current Eagle Scout so the idea of serving and leading the community has always been something I actively participated in. I believe that public service at its roots i helping others, and is the least anyone can do, but its limits are endless. In an individualistic country like America, people focus on independence and have a “survival of the fittest” mentality. This being our culture, it is ever-so important but also more difficult to encouragement public service. By the time I attained my Eagle Scout I had spent countless hours at community and service projects because I wanted to make a change. While I pack up my equipment and go home, I may never know the impact I made on any of the recipients of the project, but I rest assured that it is intrinsic motivation to do good that allows me to continue give my time. While my family is no where near the most wealthiest in America, we are definitely at a level where college educations are attainable. With the opportunities I have had since birth I should be able to use to help those who may not have had the same opportunities. As someone who was given the opportunity to join Boy Scouts, I know many other students around the world have not. This is why is it so important for those, especially who have the capacity, to at the least use our most precious resource, time, to help others.
What are the projects that you’re working on this summer and how are they connected to your interests in public service?
What is something that people usually don’t expect or know about you?
I don’t like dogs. They scare me. I also can’t do rats.
What do you do in your free time?
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Sharon Le is a rising third-year student at the University of Virginia, double majoring in Psychology and Spanish, on the Pre-Law track. Sharon served as the External Vice President for the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA@UVA) the past year, and is also involved in Phi Alpha Delta – the International Pre-Law Fraternity, and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team at the University. She was greatly exposed to the Asian Pacific American representation not only through her involvement with the Vietnamese community in Northern Virginia with VSA but also through her background – having grown up in Vietnam and moving to America in high school. Sharon hopes to promote Asian Pacific American leadership with her commitments and to give the community a bigger voice in the country.