Letter from 65th HCJ President Uyen “Winnie” Vong

May 2022 NewsDragon Edition

I was recruited by Kristine Duong, while volunteering at a summer teaching program for disadvantaged youth in rural Taiwan. I started out as a member of the Honolulu Chinese Jaycees (HCJ) in 2012, then as a Vice President in 2013, Executive Vice President in 2014 and 2015, then HCJ President in 2016. I also served as Director of Government Affairs for JCI Hawaii in 2019.

During my time with HCJ I received some recognitions which includes: 2015 Outstanding Officer of the Year; C. William Brownfield Memorial Award in 2014; a certificate from the Honolulu City Council for outstanding service as 2016 HCJ President.

Some of the recurring themes throughout my decade-long Jaycees career have been:

1. Collaboration. For me, being a member of the Jaycees means serving my community as well as working with my community. Some projects I have been proud to lead were:

a. Puna Relief Fundraiser in 2014 to help with recovery efforts for Hawaii County residents affected by Tropical Strom Iselle. Spearheaded the collaboration between HCJ, RPJ, Hawaii Kai, and FJC. The fundraiser collected over $650, which was donated to Hilo Jaycees for supplies purchases.

b. Worked with Miss Chinatown to create joint projects such as planning an ‘after-party’ event post-competition so that they raise money toward future competition expenses. Also worked with Miss Chinatown to get them a more active role in the Healthy Baby Contest. They recorded a promotional ad for TV and social media to encourage parents to sign up for HBC. I also went to San Francisco as HCJ President to support then 2016 Miss Chinatown Michelle Hee.

2. Civic Participation. My passion is in public service and how best we can support our community to learn about government and local history.

a. Honouliuli tour in 2014: I set up a tour with the Japanese Cultural Center for all JCI Hawaii members to learn about the history of Honouliuli, the site of one of the known internment camps in Hawaii. The tour was limited to 15 spots, and it was filled up really quickly. At that time, Honouliuli was not yet a national monument.

b. Hawaii’s Future Caucus/State and City Youth Commissions: Participated as HCJ president in the Hawaii’s Future Caucus (went to meetings, advised legislators on what top challenges Hawaii’s youth and young professionals were facing: housing crisis!) and advocated for the creation of the state’s and city’s first youth commissions.

3. Sustainability. As a young person’s organization, climate change will have an outsized impact on future generations, so it’s important current Jaycee members are attuned to what’s happening in this arena.

a. In 2019, as government affairs director for JCI Hawaii, I helped coordinate and served as moderator for JCI Hawaii’s Sustainable Development Goals Panel Discussion.

b. I also planned and coordinated a “Paris to Pittsburgh” film screening and facilitated discussion on the very real social and economic impacts of climate change on our planet.

c. I also emphasized outdoor activity events to not only create bonding opportunities, but also help members recognize the impact our environment has on our mental health and general well-being. Examples: Hiking to Lulumahu Falls in Nov 2016, group biking activity along the Pearl Harbor Bike Trail in 2016

As president of HCJ in 2016, I took pride in starting to formalize some of HCJ’s regular events, such as setting a specific day of the month for GMMs, inviting expert/guest speakers to speak to members (some examples: then-Mayor Caldwell, Councilmember Brandon Elefante, CoC Hawaii president Sherry McNamara, etc.)

When I’m not volunteering with HCJ/JCI Hawaii, I have organized for other community organizations including: Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), Chinese Community Action Coalition (voter registration group for Chinese community), YDHI (Young Democrats of Hawaii), and most recently joined Blue Planet Foundation’s Ambassador Board to promote climate change awareness.

In my new role as the Public Affairs Senior Manager at the National Conference of State Legislators, I will be supporting the public affairs program including oversight of media relations, social media, and other digital platforms. My goal is to continue to elevate the voice of the people by strengthening the legislative institutions in our capitols.

The Jaycees has been an amazing organization for me – from attending the first event which was the Healthy Baby Contest to leading the chapter in 2016, then serving as government affairs director at the state level, I have been able to develop hard and soft skills through project management, event planning, and community organizing. Through the Jaycees, I also was able to meet many prominent people in the community. Through the Jaycees, I also got my first real job at the Hawaii State Legislature, first as an intern for Rep Mark Nakashima (for one day!), then as a session hire for Rep Mark Hashsem.

After that, I worked for the City and County of Honolulu’s Neighborhood Commission Office where I continued to help ordinary citizens make an impact in their community.

In 2017, I transitioned to another city agency, the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency where I worked to promote awareness on climate change issues and encourage others to take an active role in advocating for greener, climate-progressive policies at the city level.

In 2021, I made the hop from city hall to the state capitol (where it all started!) as the community affairs specialist for the Office of the Governor, where I continued to serve as a liaison between government and the broader community.

You could perhaps say that my life as a public servant perhaps wouldn’t have been possible without the Jaycees (and Rep Mark Nakashima!).

We are here to create a positive change for our community

The common thread that connects both my work in government and community service has always been my belief that we are here to create positive change for our community. Many people join the Jaycees because of the networking opportunities, but we stay because our members share the same values and goals with an organization whose mission is to empower young active citizens with development opportunities that create lasting change on people’s lives and future of our society.

Image taken by Edmar Castillo Photography