Houa Thao is a junior at Augsburg University, and has emerged as a public leader on campus working to build inclusive community and understanding across difference. Through his leadership with the Augsburg Asian Student Association, Multicultural Student Services, and the Equity and Inclusion Initiatives office, Houa has worked hard to create opportunities for students to connect around culture and to build relationships across difference. By contributing to a culture of intentionality and understanding in relationship building amongst students, Houa is actively creating space for the groundwork of meaningful social change to blossom. Houa’s desire to give back to the community from which he came has motivated him to pursue the field of Social Work. Houa takes seriously his own responsibility as a role model; as a first-generation college student from the Hmong community, Houa understands that he is paving the path for young people coming after him, just as his parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles made their own way in the United States as refugees. The Newman Civic Fellowship is an excellent opportunity for Houa to further explore his civic identity and possible directions for his future work as a citizen professional, and I am so pleased to nominate him.
Growing up, I always listened closely to the stories told by my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles about the many sacrifices they made in order to seek safety and a chance at a better life. When I recall these stories, I’m humbled to be in the place that I’m in today. I am determined to make the best of every opportunity, not just for my own benefit, but also for those who have done so much for me. This mindset led me to understand the importance of higher education. I am grateful to Augsburg University for providing me the opportunity to attend college as a Promise Scholar. Here at Augsburg, I’ve gotten the chance to deepen my understanding of the essence of community and how important building community is for the trajectory of an individual’s experience. As a student leader, I work hard to build community here on campus; as a Social Work major, I hope to continue my civic engagement by creating thriving communities wherever I am. In honor of the Hmong community, my ancestors, families, and friends, I will continue to strive to become the best possible person, paving a path for generations to come.