Phoumy Sayavong and his family came to the US in 1979 and resettled in Seattle, Washington. For Laotian refugees or any refugee for that matter, resettling in a new country is very difficult. It was a challenge to blend in and assimilate into a different society. They have to learn a new language, culture, traditions and a new way of life. For younger children, competing with their peers is even more difficult. The younger generation is somewhat left to solve problems and face reality on their own. And most of the times, they get into trouble trying to fit in.
Phoumy Sayavong is a young doctor who graduated with Ph.D. in psychology from University of Santa Cruz, California. His interest in Psychology was the result of some very unfortunate circumstances. He explained to VOA that…“My young relatives, especially male relatives, got into trouble with the law. I knew that I had to do something about it, but I didn’t know how or where to begin. I really didn’t know how to help. They ended up going to jail.
It was hard for me to see that incident.
So I decided to study psychology as a way for me to understand the situation and problems facing these youths so that I can explain it to their parents. That was the reason why I chose to study psychology”.
Currently Phoumy works as the Senior Researcher for the Oakland Unified School District and a Program Evaluator for the Collaboration for Higher Education (DeAnza College, San Jose State University, and NASA). He is involved with doing research and development, analyzing student academic achievement data and evaluating instructional programs in order to improve the quality of education for students in urban districts.
Phoumy is a self-starting and motivated individual who works tirelessly to help the Lao-American community, especially in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. Phoumy said, ”My community volunteer work started about five years ago. As a graduate student, I volunteered one of my summers running an after school program to discourage teenage Laotian girls from smoking.”
In 2002, Phoumy took part in the planning committee for the seventh annual Satjadham conference that was held in the San Francisco Bay Area. That opened the door for Phoumy to meet and build relationships with other Lao professionals. He then became a Board member at United Laotian Community Development, Inc. in 2003, a community- Based, non-profit organization that carry out programs to assist Laotian (Lao, Mien, Khmu, Thaidam, and Lue) seniors, help Laotians to find employment, and provide translations services. Phoumy also helped coordinated the First International Symposium on Lao History held in Berkeley, CA. He also volunteered as writer and director of a locally produced Lao television
show called BanLao TV. By 2005, Phoumy assisted in the planning committee of the First International Conference on Lao Studies, held at the University of Northern Illinois at DeKalb. Phoumy is still active in the community.
His recent volunteer activities include being Chair of the Laotian American National Alliance (LANA), planning and participated in the 2006 San Francisco Chinese New Year parade, representing the Laotian American community of the East Bay; preserving and promoting the art of Lao motif stenciling with Prince Nithkhong Somsanith. Part of the effort involves working to document and create more motifs to be used on temple walls and other venues all over the world. Occasionally, he makes public appearances to speak on the subject of higher education and serve as a reader for scholarships that support Lao American students.
This is a great example of a bright and determine Laotian American young professional, who lives his life to its fullest and reaches for stars. He is what we call “Living an American Dream”.