Oakland Tech’s Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) is a club that provides a safe space for the Vietnamese/Vietnamese-American community at Tech. They aim to empower the community in Oakland and promote appreciation for Vietnamese culture. Additionally, they strive to present opportunities for students to get involved in the greater community.
The VSA is a student-led organization. Each year, they select a team of club officers to organize club activities. These club officers hold internal board meetings consistently to plan the term. Topics that may be discussed include announcements and event schedules, communication with partnering organizations, and general meeting material preparation.
During general club meetings, members begin by answering ice breaker questions to encourage engagement. “Ice breaker questions can include: How was your Thanksgiving Break? How was your Winter Break? What are your plans for Chinese New Year?” says Amy Tran, the secretary of VSA. These icebreaker questions can occasionally provoke valuable discussions as well.
After a check-in, club officers or guest speakers are given time to talk about various topics relating to the Vietnamese culture or community. For instance, VSA has invited guest speakers Ellen Chang and Emily Yang from Improving Wellness for Asian Youth (IWAY) to speak in previous club meetings. This experience allowed students to learn about the different opportunities and services that IWAY offers. Not only that, students had the chance to learn about the significance of mental health and various coping methods for stress and anxiety.
Besides guest speakers, VSA members may also receive opportunities from VSA’s partnering organizations, such as the Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, and the other high school/college level VSAs within the Bay Area (ie. Alameda High School VSA, UC Berkeley VSA, etc.).
Meanwhile, VSA club officers plan a variety of activities for club meetings to educate their members about Vietnamese culture, traditions, holidays, and food. Though the pandemic has proved a blow to many student organizations, the VSA continues to keep its members engaged on Zoom. Through making origami lotuses and paper lanterns and decorating ao dais (Viet traditional clothing), and using the Zoom annotate function, students can learn about the art of the Vietnamese culture hands-on. The VSA also motivates students to participate by using other online platforms such as Mentimeter and Discord.
“We have bonding time on Discord. Since it’s harder to get to know everyone virtually, we bond with each other by playing games such as Among Us on Discord. We also have a bonding voice channel on Zoom where people can stop by,” Tran says. These activities strengthen the relationships among club members and are crucial to increasing student engagement.
Recently, the Vietnamese Student Association co-hosted a Tet (Lunar New Year) Social Hour with other Bay Area high schools’ VSAs where they all got on Zoom and befriended each other. Furthermore, the VSA has collaborated with the Oakland Asian Cultural Center for the Lunar New Year. In partnership, they have created a vlog to showcase how Vietnamese people celebrate the holiday. This project, titled “OACC Lunar New Year Celebration” is featured on the Oakland Asian Cultural Center’s YouTube Channel.
In addition, they hope to aid members in signing up for the Cal VSA VISION Mentorship Program, a mentorship program from the UC Berkeley VSA. Mentors will help guide mentees with their college application process and provide general support.
Although all events have been held virtually through Zoom, the VSA continues to host fun activities and programs for members and interested students.
Everyone is welcome to join the VSA! For more information, follow them on Instagram for updates: @oths.vsa.