Cammy Nguyen’s senior photo, taken at the Oregon Zoo in southwest Portland. Nguyen will graduate from Madison High School in June 2019.
Photo credit: Citlalic Estrada

Cammy Nguyen is many things; a 17 year old girl, a Madison High School student, an athlete, a sister, an active member of five student clubs and organizations, an activist, and above all, a compassionate and respectful human being. Nguyen places immense value on respect for herself, from herself towards others, and between all people in general. In October 2018, she gave speeches and reached out to local media outlets, sharing how she powered through the horrifying experience of sexual assault by standing tall and speaking out. She didn’t hesitate to say as loudly as she could that no person should have to go through what she experienced. She reminded everyone who was listening that situations like hers are wrong, and became a strong advocate for better systems that treat victims of sexual misconduct as people and not cases. “The fact that I can make others feel better about their own situation, and feel comforted,” Nguyen says, had a lasting effect on her. After she began speaking up, many people approached her to say thank you for being strong, and for being an inspiration to those people whose voices were not as loud as her own.

Within the three and a half years that Nguyen has been attending Madison High School, she has made an enormous impact on both her school community, and the city of Portland as a whole. Nguyen has pursued interests in various directions, including sports, and public speaking. She is the captain of her school’s volleyball and tennis teams, and has been playing both since her freshman year. Additionally, Nguyen is the president of Madison’s Red Cross Club, which organizes blood drives. Nguyen lists the three lives saved with each bag of blood they collect. She is also involved with KEY Club and Health Occupations Students of America, both groups that work to better the community.

Although she was born in San Jose, California, Nguyen has been a Portland resident since she was five years old. She enjoys living in Portland, but would like to leave the city for her college years. Nguyen dreams of studying environmental science or international relations somewhere on the East Coast. “There is a different energy [on the East Coast], it would be a chance to explore the world and America more,” explains Nguyen. Cities such as Philadelphia and New York City that are “good hubs to learn,” have a strong appeal to Nguyen. She is still unsure exactly what path she wants her career to take, but she has a wide array of experiences to draw from when she does make a decision.

Her passion for environmental science is a high priority for Nguyen as she transitions into college life. She has been part of the Portland Youth Climate Commission since October 2018. The commission has worked to create and pass by-laws addressing environmental issues, and participated in various forms of activism. She hopes to become more active with this group as her senior year continues. “I hope that I can do a TED Talk when I’m older,” Nguyen comments. She would want to share a “positive story about innovation that can show people that there isn’t just doom and gloom.” Nguyen believes that the world can be positive, even with the severity and stigma surrounding environmental issues in today’s society. She hopes to be able to show others how to have a compassionate attitude towards controversial topics like climate change.

Nguyen is currently working towards the completion of her third and final year as an intern in the Zoo Animal Presenters (ZAP) program at the Oregon Zoo. The paid internship provides high school students with opportunities to work directly with animals, practice public speaking, and learn more about natural sciences. Once the interns are trained, they are given different responsibilities based on how many years they have been in the program. According to the Oregon Zoo website, all the participants work with a variety of animals and give presentations to children throughout the community at “organizations that serve low-income children and families,” such as Boys and Girls Clubs and sites managed by Portland and Hillsboro Parks and Recreation. As ZAP interns gain skills and experience, they spend more and more time outdoors. Second-year interns become counselors at the Zoo’s overnight camping program, in which they teach elementary age children about basic environmental science and outdoor recreation skills. During their final year of ZAP, Nguyen and fellow interns will work together on a “conservation team” to help raise endangered butterflies, collect native seed samples, and conduct animal surveys in national forests.

Nguyen spends her summers working with the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA). The seven week program helps high achieving students from low-income houses get into top colleges. LEDA pays all the expenses for Nguyen and other students working to help to spend their weeks at Princeton taking classes on writing and leadership skills. LEDA also organizes visits to well regarded colleges in the Princeton area so that students get a glimpse of what opportunities are available to them in regard to college. Nguyen is very close with all her companions in LEDA, and says that they are a good source of support. Nguyen met one of her closest friends through the program, a high school student who lives in Florida.

In addition to her LEDA group, Nguyen has been impacted by many people as much as she has impacted others. Her mom plays a very important role in her life. “She has helped me be a better student and encouraged me to do what I want,” Nguyen says. Her family has taught her a lot about herself and who she wants to be. They helped her have the confidence to speak up and work hard. Both of her parents were born in Vietnam, and Nguyen feels privileged to be able to grow up in America. “Knowing that they came to America makes me want to do everything that I can to use the resources I have.” She also gains a sense of accomplishment from the activism she has done. “Knowing that other people don’t have the same resources that I do motivates me to help others.” Nguyen wants to use her privilege to help create innovation that will support people and continue to make the world a better place for everyone.

Earth is hovering on the brink of life-altering change. As the scientists and children of America alike begin to group together and face issues like climate change, communication is vital. The state of the planet affects not only the people who live on it today, but also all the people who will live on it in the future. Nearly everyone has something to say about climate change, but there are far too many people for all of them to be heard on a large scale. In order to make effective progress in any area of society, we need people with a wide array of experiences who understand the systems in place and are able to be compassionate towards all the world’s perspectives. We need people who are confident in their ideas and are able to effectively communicate their thoughts. We need people like Cammy Nguyen to change the world.

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