Today, Points of Light honors the exceptional work of volunteers at its Tribute event, hosted this year by the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. In celebration of emerging opportunities for volunteerism that strengthen the bonds between Asia and North America, read the story of today’s Daily Point of Light, an Asian-American who leads 200 Dallas youths in service, teaching them how to become leaders.
Jenting “Roger” Hung understands the transformative power of education. Without it, his journey to America might not have been possible. Now, he channels his appreciation into volunteer service, working with more than 200 high school students to meet the needs of the Dallas/Fort Worth community. Along the way, these young people learn how to become leaders.
Hung tells of the difficult living conditions he experienced growing up in a remote part of Taiwan, centered around the lack of infrastructure. “There was no access to doctors, no transportation and not a lot of communication between villages,” he recalls. “Most of the people around me did not go to school.”
As a young person, Hung knew he wanted a different life, and that a college education was his way out. He moved to Texas in 1981 to study computer science and management, then went on to become a systems engineer in the private sector. Throughout his journey from a place one-fifteenth the size of Texas, Hung always held sacred “the importance of education, having the right attitude and developing skills for work and personal life.” He sought a way to show his appreciation for what he had.
Since 2001, Hung has guided the North Texas Youth Honor Society (NTYHS), an extracurricular program that brings together students from 18 area high schools to participate in community service projects. Led by the students – from initial planning to scheduling, recruiting volunteers, communication and cleanup – and with guidance from Hung, the work of NTYHS intersects with many groups, including the Dallas Chinese Community Center and the Chinese Institute of Engineers, as well as local schools.
NTYHS students bring their youthful energy to service opportunities ranging from orchestrating spelling and math competitions to hosting social events for disabled youth, and even lending a hand in school cafeterias. Collectively, they manage 25-30 volunteer projects at any given time and contribute more than 12,000 hours of service annually. And NTYHS participates as a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, keeping students motivated to serve through positive recognition.
Inside all the effort the NTYHS students put into planning and carrying out their good work, their mentor feels the most important dimension of this experience is that they learn how to become leaders. Says Hung, “It’s so important for young people to develop a passion for their community. So many people have come through NTYHS and changed completely. Working with each other, they learn a lot.”
Certainly the best testimony about the lasting impact of Hung’s work comes from the young people involved in the NTYHS program. “Working with Mr. Hung helped my personal development as a leader and made me more aware of the diverse community I live in,” explains Lucy Wang, now a first-year student at the University of Pennsylvania. “There are numerous leadership styles, and through my experiences in volunteer work I was able to discover my own. Leadership, I came to understand, was largely about effective communication and organization.”
Hung knows helping youths reach their potential through service is important because it prepares them for the world they will inherit. “In our community, we need to help each other,” says Hung. “Community service doesn’t cost anything, but it makes a great impact.”
The Daily Point of Light Award, created by President George H. W. Bush in 1989, celebrates the power of individuals to spark change and improve the world. Earlier this year, British Prime Minister David Cameron started the daily award in the UK to recognize outstanding individuals who are voluntarily making change in their communities and inspiring others. Today’s UK awardee is Jenny Wong, who has volunteered with Manchester Chinese schools since 1976. She set up the Weekend School at the Manchester Chinese Centre in 2005, helping thousands of young people stay connected to their culture. Jenny is also a key volunteer at the Manchester Chinese Archive project, which tells the story of the Chinese community in Greater Manchester.