Meet Michael Chansavang
Whitworth Cadre One
'07 Graduate (B.A. Speech Communication)
Lincoln High School '03
A battle with the King of the Hill
Attending a school where the only knowledge most people have about your culture derives from a stereotypical character from an adult cartoon is a battle most people can't even wrap their minds around, but Michael Chansavang has faced, accepted, and survived this unthinkable challenge. "At first its hard…you're shocked. You want to lash out and defend yourself," Michael comments regarding his initial reactions to the statements he has heard people make about Laotian culture during his time at Whitworth. As if surviving such an oppositional force isn’t challenging enough, Michael's relational perspective has taken him even a step further. His point of view calls him to believe that, "The most important thing to do is to educate them. Building a one on one relationship makes that easier," and that is exactly what Michael has been doing.
Yeah…that one kid
Michael's journey to becoming a cultural spokesperson and racial reconciliation has ties to his experience at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, where he built diverse relationships with people across races, cultures and social groups. "I hung out with the Asians, the rockers, the punks…everybody knew me," he says reflecting on his Lincoln days. Michael not only spread himself thin socially, through involvement in an organization he helped create at his high school for Asian American students as well as an organization called Tacoma Eastside 4-H, Michael poured a lot of energy into his community as well.
It takes hard work
One Act Six student jokingly commented about this dynamo saying, "I think Michael is addicted to applying for jobs." Likely perceiving this comment as a truth-telling tease from a sibling, Michael would also see it as a tribute to his family upbringing. Michael considers himself a product of growing up in a family with a strong work ethic, a value for which the Asian-American community is well-known. "I grew up poor…my mom didn’t write or speak English…but she saw that I was doing well in school and really started to encourage me," he remembers. Michael has no shame in possessing the characteristics that he believes, in a large way are responsible for his current achievements. "I took the hard work ethic that I learned at home at applied it to school," he comments in reference to his current academic success.
"I've built meaningful personal relationships with a lot of people, not just people of color," Michael says explaining what he considers to be one of his proudest gains from his Whitworth experience. In the future, Michael would like to be involved in economic development. "I feel that is a pretty effective way to help people out of poverty and provide them with the resources and the knowledge to help improve their quality of life," Michael says commenting on how he plans to work hard to use the relationships and resources he has acquired to build his community.