From ASPIRE to Inspire
First-generation student Tigana Văn Lê had a hard time finding his niche on campus as an undergraduate student. After getting involved in the Asian Pacific American Resource Center (APARC), Lê found not only a home but a passion for leading and inspiring others. After serving as an education policy intern for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) this past summer, Lê is eager to use his interest in higher education and policy to make an enduring impact.
Leaving a Footprint in Washington DC
As an education policy intern for SEARAC, Lê worked on major projects that incorporated analyzing budget proposals, interpreting data, and applying that information to different demographics and communities. “It was really eye-opening to see how communication within the framework of what I was learning in the classroom was different in different regions,” Lê says.
Having so many diverse classes through the College of Liberal Arts allowed him to explore different interests. Among these were classes involving communication theory and public speaking that prepared him for this experience and shaped his post-graduation plans.
Working in Washington DC, Lê found that forming concise messages was a skill imperative to his internship. The brief interactions with legislators requires concise and synthesized communication. He also became more informed of policies that included: healthcare reform, anti-deportation, and immigration policies to uplift Southeast Asian communities.
One of his main projects focused on analyzing data for specific education programs based on the proposed 2018 education fiscal budget from the President. By analyzing reports from different federal organizations, Lê was able to determine the effect the education budget would have on programs that are utilized by the Southeast Asian community.
One organization his internship focused on was the federally funded TRIO Program that helps students from low-income communities prepare for college. Through analyzing budget proposals, Lê helped disaggregate the information and applied the data to Southeast Asian communities that rely on TRIO in order to make policy.
Another project Lê was involved in included a three day, intensive advocacy training where community members from throughout the US visit Washington DC to learn about policy, community mobilizing, and meet with their respective legislators. He helped plan this training, and the advocates eventually went on The Hill and advocated to key policymakers.
Looking back, he says he really enjoyed the experience and that “as a young professional, knowing how college was a practice ground for what I want to do post grad reconceptualized how important it is for me to be engaged in my education.”
Community on Campus
For the first two years of his college experience, Lê struggled to find a campus community--until he became involved with cultural organizations on campus, which led to his involvement with APARC. One day sitting in a cafeteria, he met with APARC Director Kong Her and Program Coordinator Peter Limthongviratn and discussed the possibility of creating a peer mentorship program catered toward Asian Americans and Pacific Americans. APARC’s new space in Appleby Hall just opened at the start of 2018. After participating in that process, Lê became more involved in APARC and now serves as a student coordinator for the center and its programs.
APARC’s mentorship program, called Asian American and Pacific Islanders Promoting Inspiration, Resilience, and Empowerment (ASPIRE) pairs first-year and transfer students with third- and fourth-year students. As a student coordinator, Lê pairs up the mentors and mentees and plans social events and retreats. When asked about the impact this organization had on him he says, “APARC, as a whole, and the ASPIRE program has really shaped my undergrad experience.” From feeling like he didn't belong to finding himself immersed in student organizations, Lê found his campus community.
Through APARC, his passion for higher education, nonprofits, and youth work was cultivated. In the future, Lê would love to work with higher education. He hopes to make an impact on young adults through youth work and wants to potentially start a nonprofit organization that incorporates all of those aspects.
Her and Limthongviratn have also made a large impact on Lê’s career goals. “Being a student coordinator here at APARC, I love the work that they do, the responsibilities that they have, and the fact that they care so much about their students and community. That’s what I’d be seeking in a job.”
This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.