July 12, 2019 IN: Our Voices, Staff Blog
SEARAC Spotlight: Eugene Vang
Eugene Jer Vang
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.