Passion for Political Activism Leads Teen to Volunteer Across Orange County

Daily Point of Light # 6580 Aug 8, 2019

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Jasmine Nguyen. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Jasmine discovered her interest in political activism when she entered high school, leading her to start her own chapter of a student-based political organization and run her school’s first voter registration drive. Now an incoming freshman at Stanford University, Jasmine has focused her political passion in three organizations: Orange County Congregation Community Organization [OCCCO], VietRISE and This Is Zero Hour. Through volunteering for these organizations, Jasmine is not only advocating for issues such as climate change and undocumented immigrants’ rights, but also working toward creating a more politically-aware community throughout Orange County, California.

Describe your volunteer roles.

I work with OCCCO, VietRISE and This Is Zero Hour, all of which are political organizations. I would say I do most work with OCCCO. I will come in as a youth representative to their various meetings with city council members and try to push for more youth funding, for internship programs and other things in Anaheim for youths specifically. I also go in for phone banking. It’s nonpartisan so we phone bank and tell people when their upcoming elections and where their nearest voting station is, where they can go vote relevant to their location. I would say my primary organization at the moment is OCCCO.
For VietRISE, I’ve attended a couple of their community-type events. For instance, about two or three weeks ago, I went to a town hall with [U.S. Representative] Katie Porter … We basically went to talk to them about their current policies on undocumented immigrants in Orange County and specifically Katie Porter and her stance. I did some work with them there and I also attend their community events where basically they all get together to discuss their experiences as Vietnamese Americans in Orange County.
For This Is Zero Hour, I’m on the partnership team as one of the partnership members so I contact various organizations and ask them to partner with us. We really recently had our Miami summit on July 10-12, which was basically where a bunch of youth were able to organize in Miami and go over how to be more environmentally aware and take climate action. I wasn’t able to go to that event but I did help with the organization of it because I was the representative for about seven or eight partners. I would basically coordinate with them to come speak at the summit or come table at the summit or even to put their organization on our official website as a partner.

Jasmine Nguyen Daily Point of Light Award Honoree
Jasmine volunteers for three different political organizations in her Orange County, CA community./Courtesy Jasmine Nguyen

Why were you interested in volunteering for these types of politically-active organizations?

I’m really interested in political science and I consider myself to be somewhat of an activist in my community. I have a pretty big focus on undocumented immigrants rights, women’s rights and healthcare issues, so those are all things that are something I feel like I’m very interested in. I wanted to get more involved in my community and fight for those issues.

Why do you think these issues and these specific organizations are important?

They’re incredibly important. People tend to not be interested in issues that don’t directly effect them, but I feel like there are so many issues out there. There are so many problems that are just waiting to be solved. Especially with This Is Zero Hour, it has a focus on climate action and climate awareness and global warming which I don’t think is given enough attention to. In regards to OCCCO, they specifically focus on undocumented immigrants and their rights. Even though I myself am a legal citizen, I have a lot of friends who are undocumented and I feel like to ignore that — it’s just something that if I have the power to fix something, I should be able to put myself out there and try to fight for it. That’s why I think these organizations are especially important, just because they’re making people aware of the fact that there are these issues out there, and people do have the ability to make change and — not necessarily fix [the issues], but try to push for them. That’s why I’m pretty involved with these organizations in particular.

When did you start getting involved in politically active organizations? Was there anything in particular that inspired you?

I used to have this one teacher when I was in my freshman year of high school and she was incredibly politically active. She would talk to us a lot and just have general discussions about the political climate. After that, I did join the Junior State of America, which is a political organization. I actually started a chapter of it at my school where we would have bipartisan discussions and debates throughout the campus. At my school, it was super half and half — I would say it was half conservative, half liberal. So it made it a really good place for debates to happen because we didn’t really have a lean in a specific direction. That was a really big thing, and I actually led the first voting drive at my school, where we registered about 185 students to vote.

Jasmine Nguyen Daily Point of Light Award Honoree
Jasmine, right, holds her high school’s first-ever voter registration drive./Courtesy Jasmine Nguyen

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

Definitely seeing the outcomes. Specifically for OCCCO for instance, we went through this huge campaign where we were talking to folks from all over Orange County about their current beliefs on undocumented immigrants and why they felt that way. We actually found we could sway people to be more in favor of undocumented immigrants having certain rights, I guess being less inclined toward deportation, so more toward an undocumented immigrant-friendly stance. We found that it actually had a fair impact and it was something we could sway about eight percentage points in elections. I went to a conference at the California Immigration Center in L.A., we had a mini conference on it, and I thought it was really cool to see that it had actual results.
For This Is Zero Hour, the summit went really well. I think 150 trees were planted at the summit, because I helped coordinate with this one organization that helped with the tree planting. That was really cool to be involved, after all the hard work, seeing some results. It’s a really fulfilling thing to see.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

A lot of the work I do has to do with having conversations with people I wouldn’t necessarily talk to. I think just having an open mind and learning from other people and understanding where they’re coming from rather than being close minded at the start. Especially understanding that everyone has a sort of connection with each other and I think open conversations with other people are a really good way to learn more about each other.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Jasmine? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Morganne Mallon