SEARAC Spotlight: Eugene Vang

Through your partnership, SEARAC hosts our annual Leadership and Advocacy Training (LAT), which we have been blessed to sustain for the last 20 years. LAT enables us to help build the pipeline of leaders and advocates who will sustain the movement demanding Southeast Asian American equity.
Meet college student Eugene Vang, the youngest member of LAT 2019.
Eugene Jer Vang
Current occupation:
Hmong-American youth leader/advocate
Boba drinks; sour candies; performing, especially through winterguard and colorguard; dancing and creating expressive movement; spending quality time with family, friends, and mentors; traveling, especially to the outdoors such as the beach and the mountains
Olives and tomatoes; hot and humid weather; negative vibesFavorite SEARAC memory:
During LAT, I was feeling really nervous about my legislative visit. I took on a large role, which was leading the conversation with Ian, who works with my representative, Jim Costa. While preparing, I felt safe and comfortable because I was uplifted, seen, and heard by the SEARAC staff, my facilitator UyenMy, my group members, and my fellow LAT participants. I spoke up about me battling and overcoming my acne disease and mental health problems and how my community, my family, and I struggle navigating the health and mental health care system. I will never forget that moment when we walked out of that office, and I kept smiling because I was so so proud. We did it. I did it. I felt so powerful and accomplished. I thought to myself, “Wow if I could do this, I could do anything.” It was honestly the best feeling in the world. I was glad that I was able to be myself and show up to represent Merced, the Central Valley in California, the Southeast Asian American community as a whole, my Hmong community, my family, and myself. It was truly remarkable knowing that I had everyone by the side standing next to me and that I wasn’t alone. I am so thankful for my group members: Mai Ka, Tony, Vina, Katrina, and UyenMy, who constantly encouraged and inspired me. I want to reiterate how nervous I was, but I was prepared and so ready to share my story and advocate for change and that is what I did. Thank you SEARAC for giving me the opportunity to grow and become a better leader for my community.

Biggest LAT takeaway:
My biggest takeaway from LAT is that my story needs to be heard by using my voice, speaking my truth, and taking up space. There are many times when I would become timid and shy, making it very difficult for me to be vulnerable and open up. I am so fortunate that SEARAC provided a safe space at LAT where I was accepted and encouraged to speak up and take up space. I participated in large group discussions and even shared how I felt toward the end of LAT in the closing. This ignited the power in me, and it reminded me of how powerful I can be when I simply speak up and share what I think and how I feel. I am only 18! I just finished my first year of college at UC San Diego! I learned the importance of acknowledging that and uplifting how young I am. I still have so many things to learn, but I’m so excited about everything that I am doing now and everything that is to come especially because of my experience at LAT.