OCA Announces 2018 OCA Unsung Heroes

18 June 2018



Stephanie Wong | Chapter and Membership Associate
202 223 5500 ext 120 | swong@ocanational.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, a national membership-driven organization of community advocates dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), is proud to announce its 2017-2018 OCA Unsung Heroes presented by Buick. OCA will honor five individuals whose time and effort towards advancing equity and equality for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are not often publicly recognized.

Each Unsung Hero will be recognized during the 2018 OCA Gala Awards held on Saturday, July 21, 2018 at the OCA National Convention in Washington, DC. In the spirit of volunteerism and advocacy, attendees will learn about the significant and inspiring contributions each Unsung Hero has made to their communities.

“OCA is proud to recognize the contributions of these five outstanding individuals who have given and continue to give toward the organization,” says Kendall Kosai, Deputy Director. “This year’s Unsung Heroes embody an excellence to service and community. Their work collectively empowers and strengthens their respective communities and are an integral part of our success.”

The 2017-2018 Unsung Hero Awardees are as follows:

GRACE PAN, OCA – Westchester/Hudson Valley | Grace Pan is one of two co-chairs for the Westchester County Asian American Heritage Festival. Pan is responsible for an astonishing array of tasks from being the festival’s outreach coordinator to its program book author. She is the youth program coordinator and is the go-to person whenever there is an emergency that needs attention. 2017 marked Pan’s fourth consecutive year as chair of the festival.

Pan also serves one of the co-chairs to OCA - Westchester/Hudson Valley’s annual Dynamic Achievers Award Gala, both in 2016 and 2017. This gala is of great importance to the Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter as it is one of their major fundraising event. Among Pan’s other positions, she has been greatly involved with a major Chinese school in Westchester for many years.  She was a vice principal of the PTA, a math teacher, and is also the 2017 and 2018 co-chair of the Chinese Family Network of the Horace Mann School, where she lends her expertise to help fellow parents.

Pan’s willingness and devotion to her role is demonstrating in her acceptance of any responsibilities that come her way. She stepped up and took on the role of chapter treasurer when needed and became a resource to the chapter leaders. Pan also launched the Westchester/Hudson Valley chapter’s first APA-Y workshop which was a big success.

TINA CHOI, OCA – Colorado | Tina Choi was born in the Philippines, spent her early childhood in Hong Kong, and migrated to the United States in the 1990’s. Choi is a graduate from the University of Denver where she became a certified public accountant. This led her to current success as she now owns her own accounting firm in Denver.

Choi’s relationship with OCA runs deep, having been a member herself for many years now. She has also been a Board of Director and Treasurer for almost a decade.

Alongside with the firm, Choi has dedicated countless hours to coordinating events within OCA - Colorado. Choi has managed events such as Lunch and Learn, OCA Senior Care programs, OCA Dragon Boat Race Team, and many others. These events would never have been able to come to fruition if it were not for Choi’s hard work and coordination. In a time where OCA – Colorado’s future was waning, Choi rose above the hardship and rallied her community to come out and support OCA. When she was needed most, Choi stepped up to the challenge.

LEE DOUANGKEOMANY, OCA – St. Louis | Lee Douangekeomany was born in Ubon, Thailand and in 1980 she migrated to the United States with her parents. Being the oldest daughter of a Laotian immigrant family, Douangekeomany learned quickly about the importance of how hard work, knowledge, and support can open up new opportunities. Douangkeomany’s parents came to America with little to nothing like most Southeast Asians at that time, and worked to become successful restaurant owners for over 30 years. They continue to give back to their community by founding a non-profit Buddhist Temple in St. Louis. Lee continues to be influenced by her parent’s strong work ethic and continues to live by the values taught to her as a child.

Douangekeomany graduated from Webster University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Management with a minor in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. Douangkeomany continued her education by becoming a researcher at Washington University in St Louis, where she also pursued a masters in biotechnology.

Douangkeomany currently serves as the Vice President of Membership for OCA - St. Louis, is on the Youth Leadership Scholarship committee, Communication and Networking committee, and advocates for education and community volunteerism.

In 2014, Douangkeomany joined OCA’s MAAP program as a mentee. Inspired by the facilitator Erwin Cruz, she wanted to utilize the skills she developed during her time with MAAP to speak about her passions in the STEM field. Douangkeomany is now a mentor in various STEM programs such as Technovation Challenge, Lego Robotics, and CoroWILSTEM. Douangkeomany’s life goals are to continue inspiring those within her community and to teach people how they can use knowledge and resources given to them to create effective change in the world.

ERWIN CRUZ, OCA – Greater Chicago | Erwin Cruz has now served as the OCA National MAAP facilitator for the past several years supporting various chapters. As a MAAP facilitator, Cruz has helped introduce and support the MAAP program for many chapters.

In 2017, Cruz continued his determined efforts of “paying it forward” by ensuring the success of the MAAP program in St. Louis, Chicago, and New York. He additionally mentors chapters to better understand how MAAP can impact and bring new opportunities.

Although the MAAP program only takes place during a 3 months’ time frame, Cruz continues to engage thereafter with the MAAP graduates to provide support in their development and to help capture their stories for chapters to highlight in their community. Thanks to the mentors that Cruz has surrounded himself with, Cruz is passionate about his commitment to give back to OCA communities.

OCA Senior Program Manager, Monica Lee says, “I’ve witnessed Erwin take his personal time off on countless occasions to provide support and guidance where he sees potential for development and growth. He not only serves as a MAAP facilitator and leader for the OCA - Greater Chicago chapter, but has also served in many other roles to support several OCA chapters and initiatives throughout the country. All members who’ve gone through his MAAP sessions have expressed the transformative impact Erwin has had on them, and have gone on to make great strides in their careers. We could not be more proud of having Erwin as not only a MAAP veteran, but a steadfast leader of OCA.”
CHAO VANG, OCA – Greater Sacramento | Vang received his Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Policy studies, as well as his Baccalaureate degree, teaching credential, and Master degree from California State University, Sacramento. His work has transformed student’s to aspire for a life full of meaningful work. He has grown to have a deep cultural sensitivity to students of diverse backgrounds and has shown success with working within a large diverse academic, socioeconomic, cultural, disability, and ethnic environment to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

Vang currently serves as the External Relations Coordinator for Student Academic Success and Educational Equity Programs (SASEEP) Executive Coordinator for the Full Circle Project, and also teaches in the Department of Ethnic Studies and Social Science program at California State University, Sacramento. Vang is committed to engage, educate, and empower the community, in the same way his teachers, mentors, faculty, and other people mentored him from high school to now, resulting in him being the community leader he is today.