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Life Lessons

Valentina Truong

I was constantly asking, ‘Where else can I help?’

For Valentina Truong, it all started with an invitation from a professor: help low-income community members by volunteering with a program that completes their tax returns for free.

“The people at the event reminded me of my family, so I wanted to give back,” she says of her experience with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. “After that event, it was a domino effect. I was constantly asking, ‘Where else can I help?’ ”

Giving back through peer mentoring and volunteer activities has been an indispensable part of Truong’s life at Cal Poly Pomona.

Truong, graduated in June with a degree in marketing management and chemistry minor, says that her family is her inspiration. She wants to replicate that kind of support for students struggling to navigate college.

“My parents emigrated here from Vietnam, and they didn’t have any help or extended family. Seeing what they’ve gone through to support our large family motivates me,” she says. “They always told me, ‘Do whatever you want, whatever makes you happy.’ ”

As a first-generation college student and peer mentor in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Center, Truong says her parents’ attitude is unique.

“Within the API community, parents have a lot of expectations, so a lot of students are insecure, or they say, ‘My parents are funding my education so I don’t really have a choice for a major.’ ”

Truong has seven siblings, ranging in age from 27 to 18, all of whom have either graduated or are in college. As her younger siblings are becoming independent, she found mentoring on campus as a way to continue playing a big-sister role.

“I like sharing my experiences and telling them about mistakes I’ve made so they can avoid them,” she says.

Truong’s career aspiration is to be an optometrist, so joining the Pre-Optometry Club early on was a natural fit. She was mentored by students with similar goals and also was able to give back to the community.

One optometry club event stood out to her.

“There’s a homeless community in Fullerton, and we helped doctors give free eye exams and free glasses. It was a very eye-opening experience — seeing the lines of people that need help,” she says. “It makes me think about my family and my parents, and anyone out there who needs help. It’s good that there’s so many resources available, and I want to be that connection to the resource.”

Published on June 30, 2016

Impact Map

Explore Impact Map

The Impact Map shows how Cal Poly Pomona alumni are making a difference in Southern California and around the country. Explore the map or share your own impact.

Explore the map

Submit Your Story