The Next Generation: Bao Hoang and Duc Dinh

Despite being born in America and never being back to Vietnam, Bao Hoang has been busy trying to keep her heritage and homeland in her heart.

She's President of the University of Houston's Vietnamese Student Association and is heavily involved in organizations such as the Vietnamese Culture & Science Association, participates in the Vietnamese Cultural Showcase, and has helped raise thousands of dollars for the Boat People SOS. Don't worry about her grades; she made it on the honor roll last year as a psychology student.

But of all these activities, her work with the Vietnamese Studies Organization (VSO) to get Vietnamese language and culture courses into university programs might have the most lasting impact on future generations of Vietnamese-American students.

Bao Hoang, University of Houston VSA President
Bao Hoang, University of Houston VSA President

"When young Vietnamese enter college, they want to know more about their culture. VSAs do a good job of cultivating that curiosity, but there are few options at the university level to formally learn about Vietnam. I think many students see the importance learning Vietnamese as a way to keep their identity and also to help them in their careers as well. That's why having Viet courses was so important to many of us," explains Bao.

In its initial stages, the VSO had to raise money for half of the expenses to bring the university courses into existence. Bao and many other dedicated volunteers at the VSO worked hard to raise over $17,000 for the Vietnamese Studies Program.

Today, the university offers four levels of Vietnamese language courses. This is a major accomplishment as it is the first such program in Texas. Because of the success of the courses and their popularity among students, the Vietnamese classes are now completely funded by the university. No matter what the costs, Bao believes it is money well spent, "Even if only a few young Viets remember where they come from, or learns the language, or is inspired by the culture, it is all worth it."

While Bao was fighting to bring Vietnamese to the education system, her friend Duc Dinh has spent most of his young life bringing education to the Vietnamese.

Most kids use their summer jobs to buy their first car. But when Duc was in high school, he used the money he saved from his summer job to start a charity called Lend A Hand. Duc's organization provides education assistance and health care for children in remote rural areas of Vietnam. He has personally traveled to Vietnam and helped over hundreds of impoverished families in places such as Saigon, Tien Giang, Can Gio, Bien Hoa, Go Vap, Long An, My Tho, Long Xuyen, Can Tho, Kien Giang, Ca Mau, and Dat Mui.

Duc Dinh, founder of Lend A Hand
Duc Dinh, founder of Lend A Hand

"We will visit every single area in the middle of Vietnam this Christmas. We gave away a lot of full scholarships for impoverished students to have a chance to go to school. We provided 100% funding for two open heart surgeries for two kids. It saved their lives," says Duc, who got selected for an early acceptance program into any medical school in the state of Texas with scholarships.

Duc does not have to do it all alone. The majority of Lend A Hand members that he recruited are pre-med students. Eight members were accepted to an elite early acceptance program to medical school.

"Right now, I believe that Lend A Hand is known in the community as a very successful group in academics, as well as a team that is committed to helping kids in Vietnam and Houston," says Duc.

"Although we've been around for only four years, we've definitely made a difference in many people's lives. I encourage more young Viets to think about volunteering in their community at least once in 2007. Too often, the next generation are so busy with school or starting a career, that we forget where we came from and forget to reach back to help out those in Vietnam."

Written by Thien Huynh

Thien Huynh is a reporter for 24 Hours and appears on SUN TV every Thursday. If you would like to nominate someone for Pride of the Vietnamese or have a story to tell, contact him at or Thoi Bao at