By Ay Saechao
When I began college two decades ago, I wanted to be a geologist. I was fascinated by the theory of plate tectonics and its connection with land formation, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
Early on, however, I discovered a more personal search. It began when I walked through the doors of the Asian Pacific American Education office of Oregon State University. A young Asian-American woman, Sho Shigeoka, approached me as I entered the Minority Education Office and asked me how she could help. At the time, I was looking for scholarships and academic opportunities. I got much more than I asked for.
I soon took up a work-study position in her office, assisting with filing and other office-related activities. Most of the time, the workdays seemed to be more of a counseling session. Shigeoka would ask me about my history and the experience of the Mienh people in our schools.
I told her stories of how the Mienh people supported U.S. CIA operatives during the Secret War in Laos and how we had to flee for our lives after the war ended. I shared that my parents’ family, in addition to the majority of Mienh people who landed in Portland, Oregon, relocated to the apartment project called Rose City Village, where many of us struggled with poverty, despair and cultural adjustment, while coping with the traumas of war that still crippled our community.
One of these stories greatly impacted my personal and professional trajectory. …