PORTRAITS

Meet some of our BCNC families and read their stories below.

 
 

BCNC is like our second home. As new immigrants, you don’t really have a home yet, but the community at BCNC is very welcoming.

-Yanyi Weng

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I used to be very quiet and shy, and I didn’t talk to anyone because I’m deaf. But BCNC staff helped me work on being brave and proud of who I am.

-Ivy Chow

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Carmen C. Chan’s Story: Acorn Student to Lawyer

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Carmen is a lawyer, former Acorn participant, and a current BCNC supporter. Carmen’s family immigrated to Boston's Chinatown from Singapore, and her first educational experience was with BCNC’s Acorn program when it was still located in Tai Tung village. Though born in Boston, Carmen didn’t know English, and Acorn's dual-language program was essential to her early childhood development. Carmen later became the first in her immediate family to graduate college and law school, and is now a practicing attorney with Liberty Mutual Insurance, one of BCNC’s institutional sponsors.

Carmen also gives back to the community through Project Citizenship and other pro-bono immigration-related case work. She became reconnected with BCNC when she invited Executive Director Giles Li to speak on a panel at her law firm about the needs facing the Asian American community. Since then, she joined BCNC's Bamboo Circle, organized a fundraising event for BCNC at her law office, and will continue her personal financial commitment to BCNC’s mission, along with volunteering her time to support immigration-related matters in her capacity as a lawyer.

 

 

Carmen S. Chan’s Story: Former BCNC Director of Development

 
 
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Carmen Chan joined BCNC in 2002 when the current 38 Ash Street building was a big hole in the ground. She conducted the first capital campaign to build BCNC’s 38 Ash Street home. Carmen stayed on for 16 years as she saw a lot of growth potential beyond Chinatown as well as additional services to nurture immigrant families. After successfully completing the second capital campaign of $3.5 million to open the Pao Arts Center and expand the Quincy site, Carmen recently joined Rosie’s Place as their Vice President of External Relations to serve poor and homeless women.  

Carmen comes back to BCNC regularly to perform and teach lion dance to children with Nüwa Athletic Club.

 

 

Ruth Chan’s Story: From Acorn to Author

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Ruth worked at BCNC Acorn from 2003-2005 as her first job out of school. Since leaving Acorn, Ruth worked in nonprofit management in Washington DC and oversaw youth development programs in NYC. Now, Ruth writes and illustrates children’s books in NYC and is the author of Georgie's Best Bad Day, Where's the Party? and more. Every so often, Ruth comes back to BCNC to share her latest books with families! 

 

 

Chup Chiu’s Story: All-Around BCNC Alum

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Chup and his family immigrated from Hong Kong to New York in 2003, and relocated to Mississippi in 2004. In 2006, Chup and his family moved from Mississippi to Boston. They lived in Chinatown while he attended Blackstone Elementary School. One teacher suggested BCNC’s Youth Center (YC) to his parents for the following summer, as her kids went to Red Oak. The Youth Center opened their arms, and Chup immediately returned as an all-year-round youth. As he got older, he participated in YC programs such as: YouLead, Youth Advisory Group (YAG), and College Access Program (CAP). 

Since then, Chup has been working for Behnisch Architekten in the past 2 years, and is currently applying for graduate school to pursue his licensing. 

 

 

Wendy Chow’s Story: From Hopelessness to Empowerment

When Wendy Chow immigrated from Macau in 1991, she was illiterate and didn’t know any English. Her husband worked long hours at a restaurant, leaving Mrs. Chow as the primary caretaker of their three children. When she enrolled her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Ivy in BCNC’s early education program, teachers identified Ivy’s hearing loss and referred Mrs. Chow to early intervention.

Mrs. Chow regularly met with the childcare program director, angry or in tears because she was so overwhelmed and frustrated with navigating the education and healthcare systems. The director referred Mrs. Chow to English and parenting classes at BCNC. BCNC staff accompanied her to school meetings and her children participated in BCNC after school and youth programs. Her daughter Ivy shares: “I used to be very quiet and shy, and I didn’t talk to anyone because I’m deaf. But BCNC staff helped me work on being brave and proud of who I am.”

BCNC encouraged Mrs. Chow to join an advocacy group for immigrant parents. Her limited English skills did not stop her from serving on the parent council at her children’s school and the Boston Public Schools Special Needs Parent Advisory Council. “We fought very hard, and now we have a voice in the system. Now, parents are more informed of their rights,” says Mrs. Chow.

Today, Mrs. Chow’s children are thriving in college and the workforce. Mrs. Chow remains active as a BCNC parent leader and volunteer. She recruits families to BCNC and trains and organizes parents in the community. When she first came to BCNC, Mrs. Chow felt hopeless—now, she has grown into a strong advocate who speaks up for her family and empowers others in the community.

 

 

Georgia English’s Story: A Musician Empowering Youth

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In the summers of 2013 and 2014, Georgia worked at BCNC’s summer music program, Summer Music Academy for Real Teens (SMART), in partnership with Chung Changing Lives. She developed courses in songwriting, instrumentation, music theory, and a class called “Music in Community and Society,” which challenged students to explore music’s role in social change. Working at BCNC at a young age (20 and 21 years old) helped her realize that youth empowerment through music was the right path for her to pursue.

Following the summer of 2014, Georgia relocated to Nashville and worked in several after-school programs where she continued developing a songwriting curriculum for tweens and teens. In 2017, Georgia co-founded a 501c3 non-profit called Girls Write Nashville with another musician, Jen Starsinic. Girls Write Nashville pairs female-identifying youth in their city with adult female songwriting mentors to work one-on-one over a 6-month period. They host monthly youth-led writers' guilds and ends each season with a professional recording session at a local Nashville studio with an all-female band of adult professional studio musicians. Georgia and Jen just finished their third year of programming and received a grant to triple their impact next year by growing both their mentorship program and new after-school programs on Title I school campuses.

 

 

Lawrence Fong’s Story: A Passion To Serve

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Lawrence and his family moved to Boston from San Francisco when he was just 3 years old. Lawrence first got involved with BCNC when he was in the first grade through Josiah Quincy Elementary School. He joined Red Oak at 6 years old and stayed until he aged out in middle school. He then became a part of the Youth Center and, also had the opportunity to work as a summer staff when he was 16 years old. At age 18, Lawrence was officially hired by BCNC to work full time in the front desk.

While working in operations, Lawrence perused both an associate degree at Bunker Hill Community College and BA from UMass Boston in criminal justice. His interests led him to intern at a juvenile probation facility which made Lawrence realize his passions of helping people as a first responder. From the age of 18, Lawrence kept applying to be a part of the Boston police force. Then later also began applying to become a fireman in his mid-20s.

Lawrence left BCNC at age 31 and completed training at The Massachusetts Firefighting Academy in January. He now happily works full time as a firefighter in Boston’s second busiest firehouse.

 

 

Mei Hua’s Story: Former Assistant Director of Red Oak

 
 
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Mei Hua was the Boston Community Learning Center (BCLC) Coordinator and then Assistant Director at Red Oak from 1999 to 2007. She then became the Child Services Manager and then the Program Director at ABCD Chinese Church Head Start. In 2016, she became ABCD Malden Everett Head Start Program Director. 

Mei Hua is very involved in community work. She was the Community Chair for Tufts University’s Addressing Disparities In Asian Populations Through Translational Research (ADAPT). She also periodically works as panel reviewer for the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI) in Washington DC, reviewing grant applications from universities and organizations across the country.

Mei Hua taught at Cambridge College from 2007 to 2010, and has been Adjunct Faculty member at Urban College of Boston since 2005.

 

 

Andre Grimsley’s Story: An Active Community Member for 15+ Years

Andre started at BCNC’s Red Oak when he was 5 years old in kindergarten. He stayed with the after school and summer program until he aged out at 13.

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A year later, Andre returned to Red Oak as a summer counselor in the teen staff. He continued working with the summer program until he was able to secure a regular, full-time job at BCNC which he held for the next 6 to 7 years. Andre has had the pleasure of coaching for the Quincy Community Center (QCC) league and also being involved in the Boston Neighborhood Basketball League (BNBL) for the last 4 years through BCNC. He’s volunteered at the annual Oak Street Fair for several years. Andre also volunteered for former principal Suzanne Lee as she pursued a role in politics. Andre has been an active community member for over 15 years now.

Andre is currently one of the Deans of Disciplines at Josiah Quincy Upper School and is also part of the Student Support Team. This will be his 4th year at the Upper School.

 

 

Molly Higgins’ Story: Former BCNC Swim Team Member & Lifeguard

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Molly first joined BCNC through the swim team when she was in the fourth grade, which happened to be the year the swim team was formed. Being a member of the swim team paved the way for Molly to not only join her high school swim team, but also to become a lifeguard. Molly served as a lifeguard at BCNC while she was a high school swimmer, then at the University of California, Berkeley, where she got her undergraduate degree.

Currently, Molly lives in Washington DC where she works as a librarian for the Library of Congress. On the side, she is a part of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), where she interviews authors and reviews book as a way of promoting Asian and Pacific American Literature.

 

 

Cavay Ip’s Story: An Active Alum of the Youth Center

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Cavay first got involved with BCNC through the Youth Center (YC) as a tutor and mentor. A component of YC’s mission statement is providing academic support: Cavay tutored 5th and 6th graders twice a week, helping them with homework for an hour and a half. Afterwards, he would spend time playing games and getting to know them better, fulfilling the social segment as a youth mentor. After tutoring and mentoring for 2 years, Cavay was then given the opportunity to be a part of the teen staff. He led a group of tutors and mentors in presenting a series of workshops relating to current teen issues on topics such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse, hygiene, and racism. Cavay has also worked as an English as a Second Language summer instructor at the Oak Street Youth Center in 2004.

Cavay went on to get his BBA in Finance and BS in Economics at UMass Amherst. He furthered his education by getting his MS in Accounting at University of Virginia. Today, Cavay works as a principal for Charles River Associates. His recent experience includes developing launch pricing and market access strategies, global market opportunity assessments (US, EU, and Asia Pacific), authorized biosimilar launch and competitor biosimilar readiness strategies, and value-focused programs and services.

 

 

Chucky Kim’s Story: Former Artist-Educator & Music Producer

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Chucky was an artist-educator at BCNC from 2009-2011, teaching various music classes from ensembles to individual lessons. His most positive memory of his time at BCNC was the summer of 2010, when a number of community artists/educators came together to design a youth arts + literacy curriculum. Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior was collectively explored through the forms of music, photography, architecture, poetry, and painting. It was a life changing experience, showing him what's possible when people come together to serve and to create, especially under a supportive organization that believes in the power of community.

Chucky is currently living in Seattle, happily married, and a dog dad of two very sweet little pups. He is also a music producer, working in K-Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, and Pop. Since Chucky’s time at BCNC, he got to work on all sorts of exciting projects with people like Babyface and Exo, scoring films and video games, designing telepresence studios, and most importantly, building community music programs. Chucky believes what the youth of BCNC taught him was to continually create, never to lose that wonder of making something you love, and to always remember to give back to those placed around you. That flow of giving and receiving is the underlying principle of the universe, and he’ll never forget the magic of summer 2010 that affected him so profoundly.

 

 

Sophia Kim’s Story: A Leader Then and A Leader Now

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Sophia first got involved with BCNC as a Youth Program Director. Sophia took part in the creation of new BCNC programs such as the College Access Program (CAP), Chinese Immigrant Student Leadership (ChISL), and the Youth Advisory Group (YAG), and also keep up ongoing programs such as YouLead and the summer program. She maintained this position for a total of 5 years.


Now, it’s been 3 years since Sophia started up a program called the High School Support Initiative at Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service, which partners with local high schools to connect Stanford students to youth from historically marginalized backgrounds as tutors and mentors.

 

 

Dawn Lai’s Story: CAP Program Mentee and Mentor Alum

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Before Dawn moved to Buffalo, NY in November of 2018, she was a mentor in the College Access Program (CAP) because she had been a program mentee in its inception year and truly saw its benefits. Dawn enrolled in the CAP in 2009, partway through her senior year of high school. Dawn’s mentor was very involved and they spent months together working on her essays and applications and giving advice. Dawn enrolled at Quinnipiac University to get her BS in Finance.

Following her graduation in 2013, Dawn wanted to give back to BCNC and the CAP. It wasn’t until changing jobs a few years later when she had the ability to commit to becoming a CAP mentor in 2017. Dawn states that the program had changed a lot since when she was a mentee, and felt that as a mentor, she was really able to give insight into her experiences. As her mentee was also Chinese and the first in her immediate family to go to college, Dawn was able to easily relate to her. Dawn’s mentee chose to attend Boston College with a major in journalism.

As of January 2019, Dawn began her new career at as a project manager on the medical side of a cannabis startup. She works closely with the largest cannabis clinic in the country, Dent Neurological Institute, and is making strides in educating and revolutionizing the medical marijuana program in NY state.

 

 

Andrew Leong’s Story: Former Board Member & BCNC Pioneer

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Andrew was with BCNC back in 1984 as a board member when he was a law student. With the creative energy and advocacy of the staff and community, Andrew and others fought on behalf of BCNC (QSCC back then) in the 1980s land struggle against Tufts/New England Medical Center in order for the City of Boston to finally give legal title of the 34-36 Oak St building to us, paving the way for BCNC to acquire a new home on Ash St. 

As a young legal services lawyer, one of his proudest moments was taking out $1 from his wallet and giving it to the City of Boston as 'legal consideration' for title to the land and building in the late 1980s. A few years later, Andrew, along with BCNC, was part of the litigation and community mobilization team that led the historic successful "Parcel C" struggle for Chinatown. 

Andrew is now an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at UMass Boston, teaching legal studies, Latino and Asian American Studies. Once in awhile, he still provides pro bono legal services to a worthy client or struggle.

 

 

Lori Liu’s Story: Relationship Beyond the Classroom

 
 
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Lori got introduced to BCNC by her aunts who were taking adult education classes. In 1999, Lori began taking English classes. She took a hiatus from her involvement from BCNC when she had her two children in 2000 and 2002. Lori returned to continue taking English classes in 2003 and worked especially close with tutor, Laura Sen. Lori and Laura had more than a tutor-student relationship. The two would talk about personal matters, and their families would have lunch together and visited each other’s houses. Lori and Laura spent over 2 years together, until Lori graduated from BCNC in 2005 and continued to Bunker Hill Community College to continue her education.

Currently, Lori works at Mass Gen as a research lab assistant. She preps mice which are used during animal research. In her free time, Lori enjoys swimming at the YMCA.

 

 

Lawland Long’s Story: A BCNC Pioneer

Lawland first came to BCNC as an Administrative Coordinator in 1986. His biggest contribution is being a pioneer to what BCNC is today by participating in the acquisition of the 34-36 Oak Street building for the future leveraging of getting the current building through an arduous 4-year process.

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At the time, there was a political battle between conservative and progressive forces. Chinatown and its surrounding area was under pressure to institutionally expand for New England Medical Center. Through 4 years of legal and community protests, BCNC’s current building was acquired for $1—not only for long term equity, but also creating a long-lasting stake in the community which still affects Chinatown today. Lawland says that this was a critical learning experience, as he was able to witness what a united community can do. Hindsight gave him the ability to truly feel the weight of his contributions to not only BCNC but also Chinatown.

Now, Lawland is doing similar work as a CEO of Faces SF in San Francisco. His non-profit organization provides early childhood education and work force training to allow working class families—primarily Black and Brown families—to thrive in the highest cost area in the United States. He is also an advocate and lobbyist for changing legislation not only in his city, but also the state of California to benefit working class families.

 

 

Sonny Mei’s Story: Outstanding Youth Leader

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When Sonny was in 6th grade, his mother got him involved in BCNC’s Youth Center (YC) for the summer. There, Sonny found a supportive community and grew into an outstanding youth leader. During his time at YC, Sonny participated in community projects such as hosting an APA Youth Conference, making a film about bullying, and leading a recycling campaign.

For his work in the community, Sonny was awarded the NAAAP Boston Future Leader Award Scholarship in 2018. Sonny also participated in the College Access Program (CAP) where he was paired with a mentor who helped him through the college application process.

Now, he is studying physics, astrophysics, and math at UMass Amherst and is a first-generation college student. Sonny was also awarded a scholarship from Vertex, where he is currently working as a research intern in the Process Chemistry department. In the future, Sonny hopes to work towards environmental sustainability and to find new materials to replace plastics and other unsustainable materials.

 

 

Sue Ponte’s Story: Healthcare Consultant to BCNC Childcare programs

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Sue Ponte is Director of the Asian Pediatric/Adolescent Clinic at Tufts Medical Center. Sue has served as a health care consultant to BCNC Childcare programs since 2005! In addition to medical consultant services, Sue and her team provide onsite visits to review our children's medical records, making sure they have up-to-date physicals and immunizations. Sue and her staff provide professional development for our teachers and workshops for our parents on management of acute illnesses, developmental issues including autism and ADHD, allergy and asthma management. She also reviews and updates the first aid and CPR courses for licensing compliance and on our health care policy manual. Sue is a great advocate for her patients and our students. She has donated her time and invaluable expertise in supporting BCNC.

 

 

Bhurin Sead’s Story: From Teaching Artist to Performing Artist

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Bhurin Sead got involved with BCNC as a teaching artist between 2011 and 2013, teaching theater workshops for the Josiah Quincy School after school program and BCNC summer youth program. The workshops explored storytelling through music, writing and nonverbal physical theater and challenged students to discover their artistic voice through creating work of their own. The opportunity to have worked under the guidance of BCNC with the youth of the community and other artists and mentors was an inspiring experience that Bhurin continues to carry with him today.

Bhurin currently lives with his family in New York City where he performs as a Blue Man for Blue Man Group at Astor Place Theater. In May 2019, Bhurin completed his MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts from Brooklyn College and is interested in creating collaborative work that explores the relationship between audience and performer through technology, interactivity and participation.

 

 

Yanyi “Emily” Weng’s Story: Finding a Home in New Place

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When Yanyi “Emily” Weng and her family immigrated to Boston from China in 2003, none of the family spoke English. Shortly after Yanyi’s father came to BCNC for English classes, he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in November 2003. Yanyi recalls the deep sense of loneliness, “That winter felt extremely cold because my mother, little brother, and I were left in a strange place barely knowing the language.” However, BCNC became a place of support for the family: Yanyi’s mother Chunye would learn English, child development and parenting. “BCNC taught me how to work with the school system to help my children,” said Chunye, whose son has hearing loss.

BCNC staff helped Chunye gain English as well as confidence and eventually helped her secure a job with Uniqlo, one of BCNC’s employer partners. Chunye also is an advocate for other new immigrants. “BCNC helped me to help new immigrants,” said Chunye. “When you first come to the U.S., you have to work hard to adjust to the environment. If new immigrants need help, I want to help them.” Today, she is a member of a planning committee for Mass Pike Towers, where she lives and advocates for tenants’ rights.

After school, BCNC is where Yanyi learned English and leadership skills. Yanyi shares, “BCNC is where I learned to get involved with the community.” Later she represented Chinatown on the Mayor’s youth council and ran the Boston Marathon for BCNC, raising $10,000. Today, Yanyi is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work degree and hopes to become a therapist, because she feels that there aren’t enough Asian American therapists. “BCNC is like our second home,” said Yanyi. “As new immigrants, you don’t really have a home yet, but the community at BCNC is very welcoming.

 

 

Beverly Wing’s Story: Former Administrative Coordinator/Executive Director of QSCC

 
 
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Beverly served as the Administrative Coordinator/Executive Director for the Quincy School Community Council (QSCC) after her tenure at the Vocational English Education Program (VEEP) where she, along with her predecessor at QSCC, Bob Bickerton, and Chau Ming Lee of the Asian American Civic Association, established the Chinatown Occupational Training Center (COTC) to offer a wider array of job training programs for Boston’s growing Asian population. 

Upon leaving QSCC, Beverly was appointed Deputy Director for Adult Skills Training in the Mayor’s Office of Jobs and Community Services where she oversaw federal and state funding for job training services, re-employment services for dislocated workers, and the Building Opportunities Program that helped prepare Boston residents for design positions related to the construction of the Central Artery.

In recent years Beverly has continued to work in the non-profit field as a grant manager for local and national philanthropies, and as a consultant helping to build local non-profits’ organizational or programming capacity. 

 

 

Zhen Wu’s Story: Youth Center and Summer Staff Alum

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Zhen Wu first became involved with BCNC when she immigrated to the US at 11 years old. She was recommended by her then classmates to join the Youth Center as an alternative to traditional English classes. Upon joining BCNC, Zhen stayed until she was in high school and began working as part of the summer staff. She continued to be a part of BCNC by working as a staff member in the Youth Center until 2010.

Today, Zhen is currently working as a Project Designer at Beyer Blinder Belle Architects.