This student leader transformed a community service program into a
Huong Nguyen decided to enroll at Washington & Jefferson College because it seemed like a place where she could make a difference. That is why, after learning about the College’s Leadership and Service Institute, the ambitious 18-year-old jumped at the chance to apply.
Enthusiastic to get a head start on honing her leadership skills, Nguyen arrived at W&J a couple of weeks before classes started to get to know members of the campus community and connect with like-minded classmates. “When I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be more involved in college but didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Nguyen, who became inspired after meeting representatives from local volunteer organizations. “The program really opened doors for me at W&J.”
Just two years later, the psychology major is spearheading a week at W&J dedicated to improving teenage girls’ self-esteem. Partnering with community service organizations like Sister to Sister, Dress for Success and Washington Women’s Shelter, Nguyen is opening the campus to hundreds of young women from 14 area middle schools. “My goal is to encourage girls to focus more on their strengths and accomplishments and less on their body image and appearance,” Nguyen said.
It is a mission the sophomore is taking with her overseas this summer as she travels to Bangalore, India, as a recipient of the Vira I. Heinz Women in Global Leadership Award. While taking classes at Christ University, she also will be helping out in the community, working closely with other women and exploring the region’s arts and culture. Nguyen, who never has flown on a plane before, chose to take her first flight to India for the “culture shock” factor, adding, “I hope to bring some of what I experience in India back home to W&J.”