Meet Saleena, a student at Suffolk University studying Public Policy. Saleena shares with us the resilience of her family and culture, and why she is proud to be Cambodian-American and a daughter of refugees.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am from Lynn, MA. but I am currently living in Quincy. I am a first-generation Cambodian American and I am a proud daughter of refugees. One of my biggest passions is not only empowering myself through education and advocacy about social issues that affect my community, but also striving to make these kinds of educational resources accessible to others. It was not until I entered college that I became aware of the privilege and influence I had as a young person to effect change in my community and I believe that this realization has shaped the trajectory of my future since I would like to pursue a career in public service.
2. Where are you from?
I am from Lynn, MA. which is the place I will always consider home and I am a first-generation Cambodian American.
3. What aspect of your culture are you most proud of and why?
Since my family comes from a country that experienced a horrific genocide, one of the things I am most proud of about my culture is its resilience. While many may see this as something that cannot me touched or held, resilience appears in so many places throughout my life, especially my in my family. Growing up they never showed frustration in times of struggle, we always had a sense that everything would be okay if we stuck together as a unit. For me, having a strong connection with my culture means holding my family close to me and no matter how long I have been away they always feel like home.
4. Can you share a specific moment or an example?
In January of 2018, I visited my mother's home province of Kandal in Phnom Penh,Cambodia with Habitat for Humanity to help build a house for a family affected by HIV/AIDS. Although I had never been to Southeast Asia before, everything around me felt so familiar and I felt a strong sense of belonging. I will never forget how the faces of the younger girls in the village lit up with excitement and curiosity when they saw me because to see someone who looked like them, helping others gave them a feeling of hope and optimism for their own futures. It was amazing to see an entire community affected by such tragedy come together and help to rebuild each other's lives and it was a privilege for me to be a part of that.