They are all young, smart, and full of passion for life. Above all, though they are born in the diaspora, they continue to absorb, embrace and honour their Asian cultures and values. No matter where they are or what they do, they want to send this message to the world: We are here. Within the limited scope of this feature, we were only able to meet a few individuals, representing North America, to hear their thoughts about the community, parenting, education, careers and celebrate their humble academic and social accomplishments.

Celina Huynh

I’m 18 years young, and will be attending NYU in the fall, majoring in global liberal studies. As far as career goes, I don’t know what I want to do but I do know that I want to make a difference in the world. I definitely do not want a 9-5 job since my parents don’t have one. Whatever I do, it has to make me happy and make a lot of money. My achievements so far have been pretty ordinary (getting into college, being on a varsity sport, making Thanksgiving dinner, etc.), so I hope that my future holds far more notable achievements.
Growing up around famous parents and famous stars who work for them, how has this influenced your educational path and career choice?
It has influenced me tremendously in every way possible, not just my academic or career choice. Seeing my parents work so hard, working more than regular parents, has always given me a strong sense of restlessness. Growing up, my parents were never home because they were always working. Of course, it was always a little bit sad but I got used to it, and it’s given me a different perspective of what hard work looks like.

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To me, if you’re not staying up late, stressing over every detail, or managing several businesses at once, you’re not working hard enough. In school, I always had a million things going on because I see my mom handling so much that I took after her. Naturally, I gravitate towards the arts for my academic and career preferences. I love music, poetry, arts, so English was always my best subject. Seeing my parents work as producers made me want to go into that business. When I was little, there was nothing more exciting than walking onto a PBN set and smelling the fumes of hairspray and seeing the lighting equipment. So, I definitely want to go into the entertainment industry or do something more on the artsy side. I love what my parents do because they don’t pressure me into being a doctor or a lawyer like most Asian parents.
The most important thing that my parents have stressed through their job is making a difference for the sake of the Vietnamese people. To them, Paris By Night isn’t just a 5 hours variety show with pretty singers and great choreography. It’s a gateway for the Vietnamese people to remember where they came, a hope of some sort. Seeing my parents do such extraordinary things, there’s no way that I would ever want to do something average or mundane. There’s an appreciation for culture and the arts that comes along with being Paris by Night children, and I think that’s the most influential thing that I’ve gained from my parents. Just how important it is to know where I came from, respect where other people come from, and know that hard work can make a huge difference.

Gabriel Vo

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I am a 24 year old web developer and designer. After graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Arts, I quickly realized that it would be very difficult to get a job without further education. I re-ignited my passion for web design by applying to the Seneca Webmaster Post-Graduate Program. Right after graduation I started the Seneca program and graduated with highest honours due to my background and passion in web design. I am currently working for Abraham Innovation Systems Inc as a digital media marketing officer. I am also doing freelance web design on the side for the Vietnamese community. You can find me in the local Vietnamese newspapers and under gabrielvo.com.
Share with us your visions for an even better and stronger Vietnamese community in diaspora.
I believe a better, stronger Vietnamese community requires diversity in our goals and culture. My observation is that Vietnamese people tend to stick to traditions that may halt our growth. Parents seem to want their children to follow the scientific side of school – to become doctors, pharmacist, etc. Those jobs are renowned in the Vietnamese community and I believe parents should push their kids to venture towards other fields as well. There are countless possibilities in Canada and this will allow Vietnamese people to expand and show their knowledge, their community and their connection. We live in Canada, one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world – we need to embrace this fact. The majority of us however tend to stick together with fear of venturing out. I completely disagree with this mentality as we should interact, experience and work with people from all cultures – trying new food, trying new activities, making new friends. This would vastly grow our community and truly demonstrate our hard working, fearless side. The Vietnamese people are capable and equal to all, and we should always remember that. It would be my great pleasure to see and hear about the Vietnamese community utilizing our skills in many diverse ways. I believe this movement is very possible and is currently happening quickly with our youth. The goal here is to bring awareness to everyone on how I believe the Vietnamese youth of our days currently aspire and bring a positive image and influence with all cultures not just one. You as the reader can do the same!

Theresa Trinh Do

I’m 22 years old and being young, I haven’t really achieved many things. Most of my accomplishments stem from school. I just graduated from Ryerson University’s School of Journalism as one of the top students in my program, having won various awards and scholarships. I am also one of eight national CBC News Joan Donaldson Scholars, which means I received the opportunity to work at CBC News over the summer. I spent the bulk of my time in Ottawa, working at the CBC’s parliamentary bureau and reporting local Ottawa news. I also worked at CBC Television in Toronto doing investigative work. After the summer, I head back to Ottawa to continue working for the CBC’s political unit.

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More importantly, I’ve been doing non-profit and humanitarian work since I was in high school. My mom founded Dreams Fulfilled Relief Organization and our work is dedicated to poverty relief and international development. We create programs to assist families and children out of poverty and all the struggles that come part-and-parcel with it. I went to Vietnam a couple of summers ago on a DFRO charitable mission and it changed my life. In addition to the work I’d done over the years, meeting families on that trip and learning their stories sparked my passion for global issues and helped me realize that my ultimate purpose in life is to serve humanity and work in the public interest. I’m really very lucky to have figured that out at an early age. It’s what motivates me to live positively and continue striving for excellence. It’s very fulfilling.
Your parents’ generation experienced language barrier and cultural assimilation difficulty upon their initial overseas arrival. What are some challenges your generation is currently facing?
My generation is currently in the throes of one of the worst financial crises in history. This is widely covered in the press by people far more qualified to speak about it than I am, but university graduates today, burdened by student loan debt, are finding it ridiculously difficult to secure jobs in this economy. We jump through hoops to get internships (mostly unpaid) in the hopes of landing that elusive permanent job, while sometimes having to settle for freelance work and short-term contracts that deprive us of benefits and general security.
A huge challenge is trying to navigate a world that’s constantly changing, in which the lessons we learned in school are rendered pretty much obsolete as soon as we’ve finished learning them (or maybe that’s only my experience having done a media and communications degree in an era of technological flux).
We have the cards stacked against us – we’re told from a young age to attend university to secure jobs and yet universities are not equipping us with the practical skills to survive in the real world, therefore the real world sees no reason to hire us so we move back into our parents’ house to recalibrate, maybe do a graduate degree to better our chances of establishing a career. All the while, older generations complain about how we’re spoiled and entitled and don’t know the meaning of hard work. It’s terribly frustrating.

Jaclyn Quynh Nguyen

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My name is Jaclyn Quynh Nguyen, and I am currently attending The University of Texas at Austin where I am majoring in Supply Chain Management at the Red McCombs School of Business. In order to improve the delivery and access to healthcare, I hope to pursue healthcare law or a Master in Healthcare Administration. During the school year, I assist healthcare providers and nursing staff at my campus’ onsite clinic. By volunteering at Women’s Health, I have learned the significance of wellness, especially as a young woman.  As President of the Texas Business Healthcare Association, I plan to integrate my passion for healthcare with developmental programs to educate and support undergraduate students in their pursuit of working in health professional fields.  This past summer, I interned for the Search Engine Optimization team within Memorial Hermann Medical Group’s marketing department in Houston, Texas.
Although my career goal is science oriented, I have a strong desire to foster the right side of my brain – the region of expression and intuition. To foster my interests in the arts, I am also minoring in Fashion Design. At the end of the day, my dream job would allow me to provide service for others, while also giving me the opportunity to make social changes through creativity.
What are some advantages to being a Vietnamese based on your personal experience?
Throughout high school, I was exposed to many different cultures; however, I wasn’t able to fully identify with my own until my first trip to Vietnam in 2011. Visiting Vietnam with my parents, who had not returned to their home country in over 35 years, was absolutely remarkable. Aside from relishing in Vietnam’s food and organic beauty, I discovered the poverty stricken conditions. From that moment, I pushed myself further to take initiative in improving the lives of the less fortunate.  I realized being Vietnamese meant I could make a difference. Being Vietnamese meant I could emerge from hardship with resilience, be proud of our benevolent outlook, and appreciate what my family endured to give me the life I have today.
My bà ngoại always emphasized that in order to live a truly prosperous life; one should live by honour and kindness. These lessons continue to transcend into my community involvement and career pursuits. From these experiences, I learned the importance of cultivating the strengths of younger generations. I am an avid volunteer for the Vietnamese Culture and Science Association (VCSA), a non-profit organization that promotes excellence in education, leadership, and skills development. The greatest reward from participating in VCSA community events is being able to bridge the gap between Vietnamese immigrants and mainstream America. Although I am only 20 years old, I hope to inspire younger Vietnamese because empathy is what makes my heart and mind universal.

Vinh Ngo

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My name is Vinh Pham-Xuan Ngo, a 23 years old student majoring in Fine Art at the University of Houston Main Campus. I believe my biggest achievement in the community is establishing a youth organization named LeaDBP within the Vietnamese Culture and Science Association Houston chapter. After attending Len Duong Camp, a leadership development camp, for the first time in 2011, I came to realized how important it is to raise awareness to the Vietnamese youth about several issue such as volunteerism, cultural awareness, and leadership development. LeaDBP is a place where Len Duong Camp alumni can come and practice what they have learned from Len Duong Camp through our activities with the community. We formed an executive board to run the organization and through two years of its development, we have achieved our goal and reach out to thousands of people. Two of the our most successful activities were the Teen Safe Driving Campaign sponsor by State Farm Insurance where we reach out to thousand of youth to raise awareness about “Don’t Text and Drive”. Not only that, every year for the past two years, we held fundraising events in which we raised fund to provide airfares for new Len Duong Campers from all over the United States and Canada. Len Duong Camp played an important role in the way of how I am today and how I view my community. Therefore, by raising fund to help these campers, I believe they will get the opportunity of a lifetime to grow as an individual and as a community leader.
To you, what are some common miscommunication between Viet parents and their Vietnamese-American children and what can we do to improve these?
Some of the miscommunication/misunderstanding between Viet parents and their children are the lack of trust and education expectation. There will be the day when the parents need to trust their children and let them go so that they can experience life and grow. I know this is hard for many Viet families because the Viet parents tend to be overprotective when it comes to their children future, but overprotective can also prevent their children to grow and be mature in life. Being able to go out to the world, get connected, and being socially active is a great thing. These things you cannot learn in school.
Also, there is another misunderstanding is that most Vietnamese parents want their kids to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, but what they do not realize is that not all people are meant for those professions. Maybe they should consider their children’s happiness and talents over yearly salary. In a country, that has a lot of opportunity as the United States or Canada, it is not hard to pursue your dreams. I believe that if you have the passion for what you do and strive hard for it, you will be successful.
To solve these problems, I think Vietnamese parents should spend more time with their children to see what they are good at doing and what their passion is. There is nothing better than seeing parents being supportive for their children’s activities. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak out my opinion. I hope that these cultural and generation gap between the Vietnamese parents and their Vietnamese American children will soon be faded into memories.