Service to community is the foundation of my personal, professional, and community life, which is deeply informed by my experience in receiving support and education as a 7-year-old Vietnamese refugee growing up in Boise, Idaho.
I started first grade with zero English skills. Through the persistence and dedicated assistance of my ESL teacher and elementary teachers, I eventually learned to read and write in English. l became a lifelong learner and thrived in both public and private schools.
I obtained a Bachelor of Social Work, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and a Master of Social Work with a concentration in Children, Youth and Family from the University of Washington. I went on to obtain my Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work with research specialization in mental health, diversity, and spirituality/religion from the University of Southern California.
Today I’m a Social Work Professor and Program Director at Saint Martin’s University. I’m also a licensed independent clinical social worker and have worked with kids struggling with educational, mental health and addiction problems. I am on the Washington State Commission for Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA)’s Education and Health and Mental Health Committees and currently sit on the state-wide Suicide Prevention in Higher Education Workgroup. I have provided feedback on the SEL indicators to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Social Emotional Learning Workgroup and am helping to shape the formation of the workgroup for the recently passed by Washington State Legislature, Senate Bill 5023: Ethnic Studies Curriculum for Washington State Public Schools.
I’ve given workshops on mental health prevention, treatment, and recovery strategies to students, professionals, and community members locally and nationally.
Global education and connection are essential to sustain our global economy and to building a just and humane world. I was the first director of the Cultural Center at Boise State University where I developed programming and activities to enhance and increase cultural and diversity awareness, and address bias and discrimination.
Two summers ago, I took students on a Study Aboard trip to Viet Nam to apply their learning from their Migration and Conflict literature class to real-life immersion cultural experience. Recently I traveled with the Medical Education Exchange Team to teach about inter-generational trauma, burnout, and self-care strategies to medical students and professionals in Can Tho, Viet Nam.
Becoming a mother made service to the community more local and more personal. I became highly involved in my sons’ afterschool activities. I coached Sebastian’s AA Cubs team, and I am currently on the Islander Middle School Parent Advisory Committee. Volunteering for the boys' activities is a family affair. My husband, Stephen Pong, is a dentist by day and helps out in the dugout whenever he can. This year, he is an assistant coach for Oliver's Coast Yankees team. Stephen and I met at the University of Southern California.
Campaigning for Mercer Island School Board is the next natural progression of my service to the community where I can utilize all of my educational experience, skills, and knowledge to guide future generations of entrepreneurs, innovators, creatives, and leaders, grounded in ethics and service to humanity. It is life coming full circle for the young refugee girl who benefited so much from the support and care of her teachers to honor them by giving back as a school board member.