May 21, 2009: Arrangements have been finalized to have an exciting Vietnamese American Youth Leadership Conference (VAYLC) this year. For instance, a White House Briefing is confirmed for May 21 for participants to have an opportunity to listen to official presentations on domestic and foreign policies of the new administration, as laid out by President Barack Obama.
VAYLC, for those who don’t already know, is an annual conference meant to train young Vietnamese Americans in leadership skills and expose them to the workings of government in Washington, DC. First organized in 1999, VAYLC has since become an annual event principally sponsored by NCVA (National Congress of Vietnamese Americans) but also supported by State Farm and other organizations such as Boat People SOS, VATV, AAPress of Minnesota, etc. VAYLC 2009 is the 8th occasion of what we hope to be a tradition of linking with youth and preparing them for future leadership. You can learn more at www.ncvaonline.org or www.vaylc.org or by calling 703.971.9178.
Also on the afternoon of May 21, participants will have a chance to meet with members of Congress, especially those working on legislation regarding Vietnam issues, and their legislative assistants. In this way, our young participants will be exposed to the workings of Congress and publicly elected officials who represent us. This year, VAYLC is privileged to have the office of the House Speaker reserve for us a room in the Capitol Building itself, unlike other years where one would meet in one of the office buildings.
Opening Night at Boat People SOS
The opening session of VAYLC 2009 will take place at 6:30pm on Wednesday, May 20, at the headquarters of Boat People SOS, Inc. This will be a nice way to introduce this year’s participants to one of the most successful and largest service organizations in the Vietnamese American community. Boat People SOS, which was created almost 30 years ago, has evolved from a “boat people” rescue at sea operation into a multifaceted service organization serving our community in a variety of ways in 13 different offices around the country.
The following day, Thursday, May 21, will be devoted to learning about the federal government and its workings, from the point of view of both the Executive Branch (through the White House Briefing) and the Legislative Branch (through a visit to Capitol Hill and exchanges with members of Congress and their legislative assistants).
The third day Friday, May 22, will have practical workshops offered by State Farm, such as “Money Smart” and “Post College Money Management,” very useful knowledge for someone about to go into life, earn a living and be on one’s own. At the same time, State Farm will offer also a presentation on Service Learning, which will introduce the participants to a life of meaningful service to the community—the very mark of a leader for no leader can afford to be selfish. The day will also include workshops on Leadership Skills and Advocacy, Teamwork and Networking, and conclude with a session on Employment Opportunities—careers that some of the participants may be interested in.
Friday night will be capped by a Gala Dinner where participants will have a chance to meet and interact with community leaders and/or role models who they can emulate.
Learning About Media and Media Exposure
In today’s world, a good communicator is definitely more likely to succeed as there is constant need to make oneself understood. That is why successful leaders like President Ronald Reagan or our current President Obama tend to be excellent communicators. The need therefore to be familiar with the workings of the media will be the topic of one of the workshops on Saturday, May 23, entitled “Why Media.”
And the morning will wind up with more sessions on “public careers or business path” so that the participants can discuss with presenters such careers as the law or how to start one’s own business.
Do VAYLCs Make a Difference?
In 2006, Hung Nguyen, then executive president of NCVA, carried out a survey of former VAYLC participants and asked them whether their attendance at earlier VAYLCs made a difference. The answer was overwhelming: Their interest in serving the community at large nearly doubles in the case of almost all respondents. In other words, VAYLCs helped fire them up for a life of service. And it turns out that about one in four (or 25 percent) has since worked in government (at the federal, state and local level) or in a nonprofit organization.