AAPI faculty and staff share experiences during virtual panel

Tet, the Vietnamese new year celebration, is an opportunity to reconnect with family and culture. Photo by Julie leopo / Courtesy of Voice of OC

Santa Ana College Faculty and Staff shared their personal stories through a virtual panel to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month, share their traditions, and discuss different responses to Asian Hate.


Dr. Donna Khalid (Continuing Education)

Dr. Donna Khalid, who is Cambodian-Chinese, discussed her parents journey traveling to the United States that led to her eventual birth in Santa Ana. Dr. Khalid’s family left their homeland because extended family members were being executed by the Khmer Rouge, the regime in power at the time. They found refuge in the United States while doing odd jobs and adapting to a new life. Dr. Khalid explains how she isn’t a “foreigner, but a part of this country.”

“Being Cambodian-Chinese is difficult in America because cultures are very different. Forget hand shaking or waving goodbye, [Cambodian] custom is pressing your hands together accompanied with a small bow when with friends and a lower bow when greeting monks”, Khalid said.


John Nguyen (Student Development)

Similar to Dr. Donna Khalid’s story, John Nguyen shared his story of being Vietnamese-American, and his parents’ journey of coming to the United States. Nguyen’s parents met on a boat as they were seeking refuge from Vietnam.They lived in the Philippines for a couple of years, before settling in the United States.

Despite being born in the United States, Nguyen was still able to experience the culture. “One of the biggest things people celebrate is the lunar new year,” Nguyen said. “In Viet culture, it’s when everyone sets everything aside to gather and share a meal together.”


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Mark Liang (Admissions and Records)

Mark Liang, Dean of enrollment services, discussed his life as a Chinese-American and how it affected his upbringing. Liang talked about growing up speaking Chinese at home and how he decided to have a more traditional wedding that emphasized his parents as an homage to his culture.

“There was a time in my life where I tried to be more western and mainstream, but afterwards I made a U-turn and learned it doesn’t have to go against my values and culture.”


Cherylee Kushida (Distance Education)

A 4th generation Japanese-American, Faculty Coordinator Cherylee Kushida shared how many Japanese-Americans  felt a lot of pressure to prove themselves as American throughout their history here. In response to the current hate, Kushida said, “I never thought I would have to call my parents to watch their backs,” as many of the victims of these hateful acts have been elderly.


Neil Phan (Student)

Vietnamese student Neil Phan also discussed his favorite cultural traditions and goals he has for his future. Phan is managing his school and work life with dreams of obtaining a certificate in photography. 

“As an adult my favorite tradition includes the Hungry Ghost Festival, similar to Halloween, however it’s quite sacred for Buddhism and not for joking.”


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