In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, San Jose-based nonprofit Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) selects four AAPI local community members to honor for their exceptional contributions in their communities. Meet the four AAPI Heritage Month honorees below:
Dr. Connie Wun
Co-Founder and Executive Director of AAPI Women Lead
Dr. Wun's work is a reflection of her lifelong commitment to ending racial and gender-based violence. Her areas of expertise include community-driven research, violence against women and girls of color, school discipline and punishment. Dr. Wun is the Director of Transformative Research - a research, program evaluation, and training institute that works in partnership with community-based organizations to end racial and gender disparities.
Dr. Wun's message to the next generation of AAPI leaders:
"Our communities have been survivors of racial violence, gender-based violence, colonial wars for generations and here in the United States and across its territories. We are still surviving a lot of violence. I am hopeful now because there is more attention around the violence and around our histories of resistance and I am even more hopeful that we will be doing this work with other communities of color to create a different world in which our communities are relying on each other and taking care of one another so that harm is not possible and if it is enacted we will hold each other accountable and do better. I trust our next generation is already doing it, our job is to take care of them.”
Founder and Executive Director of International Children's Assistance Network (ICAN)
Quyen Vuong immigrated to the United States as an unaccompanied minor refugee from Vietnam. That experience shaped Quyen’s path to go into nonprofit work and give back to the community. She founded ICAN because she wanted children to have strong cultural roots and address their struggles growing up in America. She especially wanted to help them answer the question, “Who am I?”
Quyen serves on the Board of Directors and Advisors of many organizations, including Healthier Kids Foundation, San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum, Mission College AANAPISI Committee. In 2012, Quyen was appointed by former President Obama to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Vietnam Education Foundation, a U.S. federal nonprofit agency with the mission to improve bilateral relationship between the two countries through educational exchange in STEM fields.
Quyen's message to the next generation of AAPI leaders:
“Know who you are and be proud of who you are. Do not brush it aside. Embrace your own cultural roots early on, that will only make you a richer person.”
Executive Committee Member, Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants (PAWIS)
After living in the Philippines for 38 years, where she worked as a Court Attorney in the Phil. Court of Appeals-Mindanao, Felwina Opiso-Mondina immigrated to the U.S. and began to study and work in the U.S. legal system. She finished her Masters of Law at Santa Clara University in 2016, passed the California Bar and was admitted to the State Bar of California. Currently a member of PAWIS, Felwina works with Filipinos, particularly caregivers working in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) and nursing/assisted living facilities who have wage theft and immigration issues. She also participates in the Employment Law Clinic of the Katharine and George Alexander Law Center and is part of the Santa Clara County OLSE Advice Line. She speaks fluent Tagalog and Visayan.
“We deserve to be here in this country, we have every right to live, to work safely, to work with dignity and to breathe in this country. We should stand strong. We also need to study about racism and understand and be self-reflective about how we perceive blackness and break the colonial mentality.”
Advocate for the unhoused community
Nguyen immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was young. He wanted to give back and started by helping monolingual Vietnamese seniors. Nguyen was eventually introduced to the unhoused community. He wanted to help and started using his own funds to feed the community, helping connect folks to jobs and assisting unhoused individuals with claiming their stimulus funds. Nguyen was one of five volunteers at Grace Baptist Church who were stabbed by a homeless man he was helping in November 2020. Nguyen was back to serving homeless individuals again just one week after the incident. Nguyen is currently an Analyst for the City of San Jose and is helping lead the effort to vaccinate the unhoused community. He recently hosted an event in partnership with AACI to vaccinate 540+ individuals against COVID-19.
Nguyen's message to the API community:
“When you see a person who is homeless, who is struggling, it is often our mentality to ask ourselves ‘How did you get here? Why did you let yourself become this way?’ Let’s change the narrative a little bit and instead ask, ‘How do I help you to go from here?’ Let’s change our mindset.”