Reclaiming the California Dream – Episode 6: Mental Health Without Wealth — WILL BE RELEASED 10/12!

Reclaiming the California Dream

Episode 6 - Mental Health Without Wealth -- WILL BE RELEASED 10/12!!

Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund ( and Project by Project San Francisco (

Produced by Raymond Luu. 


Episode 5:

Sherwin Shabdar, a mental health researcher and a current medical student, discusses disparities in the mental health and medical field, and envisions a better future.

Reclaiming the California Dream – Episode 5: The Struggle to Create “Community” in Community College — WILL BE RELEASED 10/5!

Reclaiming the California Dream

Episode 5 - The Struggle to Create "Community" in Community College -- WILL BE RELEASED 10/5!!

Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund ( and Project by Project San Francisco (

Produced by Raymond Luu. 


Episode 5:

A student at Ohlone Community College in Fremont, California shares his vision for how to improve the community college experience.

Reclaiming the California Dream – Episode 4: Parenting in Tough Times

Reclaiming the California Dream

Episode 4 - Parenting in Tough Times

Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund ( and Project by Project San Francisco (

Produced by Raymond Luu. 


Episode 4:

Kathee Nguyen makes tough decisions as a parent, and explains how her child’s school must depend on parent volunteers.



Raymond (00:00):

Hey, did you know that there’s going to be 12 statewide ballot propositions in this upcoming election? Yeah, there’s more to vote for other than who’s going to be our next president. So join Project by Project and AAPI FORCE on Sunday, October 11th at 7:00 PM for a night of covering this year’s critical election. We’ll be covering the California ballot measures and positions that impact our community the most. To register for the event, go to Again, that’s

Raymond (00:42):

Hey everyone. Welcome to our limited podcast series, Reclaiming the California Dream. We’ll be hearing stories from some amazing individuals and how much their community means to them. The Schools and Communities First Act, also known as Proposition 15, will restore $12 billion a year in funding for our roads, parks, and libraries; health clinics and trauma centers; local schools and colleges. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, find stability for our families, and build a future where all Californians have access to quality healthcare and the education we deserve. Today, I’m talking with Kathee Nguyen, who’s a long-time Bay Area resident, and as a child of Vietnamese refugees, she shares her experiences being one of two Asian kids in her classroom. Kathee is a proud mother of two, and she discusses how being a young parent has changed her entire perspective, ensuring she does all that she can to provide the best education and opportunity for her children. She finds the amount of reliance of parent volunteers concerning at her son’s school, and talks about the struggle that the school has to deal with regarding funding. Today, Kathee understands the importance of civic engagement and education as a way to secure a future that not only supports her and her family, but for all folks in her community. Enjoy.

Raymond (02:04):

Hello! So let’s get started. Something really easy If you want to just go ahead and introduce yourself, your name and where you currently live.

Kathee (02:12):

Sure. My name is Kathee. I live in San Jose. I was born in SoCal, but moved up here about a month after I was born. So pretty much raised here my whole life.

Raymond (02:23):

Nice. What’s your earliest memories, and how do you feel connected since you were growing up in San Jose?

Kathee (02:29):

So I actually, so I grew up in Campbell actually. I currently live in San Jose. But my earliest memories of Campbell are school. I went to a Catholic school called St. Lucy’s, and I did a lot of activities at the Campbell Community Center, like basketball and camps and stuff as a kid. So a lot of fond memories.

Raymond (02:49):

How often, or how long did you participate in those community events?

Kathee (02:54):

So I started, I think as early as eight years old doing team basketball, and I probably did that for a few years until I was eligible to do sports through my own school program, which I think started around fifth grade.

Raymond (03:12):

If you could recall, could you kind of try to think about the ethnic makeup, if you recall in that young age, was it a pretty diverse community, not that much minorities? Kind of give me a picture of kind of the environment that you were in.

Kathee (03:28):

Yeah. This is a great question. I was just chatting about this with one of my colleagues the other day. She grew up on the East side of San Jose, whereas I was in Campbell, which I think is a lot more diverse now, but growing up, I don’t think it was very diverse at all, actually. So I think I was one of two Asian kids in my class. So I think that shaped my experience as an Asian child, a child of immigrants, you know, growing up and going to school and just being around kids that didn’t look like me or didn’t have the same cultural background as I did. So, I think I was very aware of that actually at a very young age too. I knew that I was different, you know, by the way that I looked, the food that I ate, my name, my maiden name is Nguyen. So I just remember, you know, being in class or being called on and having to pronounce my name because it was just so foreign to everybody. I had an awareness very early on.

Raymond (04:30):

Did you ever get kind of teased or people more gave a sense of like, they just didn’t know because you were the one of two Asian kids, but no one ever had malintent towards you or anything like that right.

Kathee (04:44):

I actually, I can recall several instances. I remember being very self conscious about the way I looked growing up. You know, there were instances where people would make fun of me for having smaller eyes or for my nose being a little bit flatter, not quite as tall. And then I think that Vietnamese was just not a known ethnicity. I think it was just like a lot of times, you know, we would learn about, for example, like Lunar New Year, like Chinese New Year, everybody would look to me like, because I was representative of what, you know, [what] the holiday was.

Raymond (05:25):

Right. They’re always like, you’re Chinese, right? You’re like, no I’m not Chinese. Could you talk about your family history, kind of how your parents immigrated here, if you’re first-generation, second-generation kind of a little bit about your family history?

Kathee (05:41):

Yeah. So my parents immigrated from Vietnam and so they were refugees escaping the war. So our experiences obviously growing up are completely different. They escaped for a better life and wanted to give us a better life. And so yeah, we’re very fortunate that my parents decided to come over here.

Raymond (06:03):

And in that time of them coming over and immigrating here to the States, do they ever kind of talk about some of the struggles that they’ve had?

Kathee (06:14):

So stories of their upbringing in Vietnam are very, like, they’re very sporadic. They tell us little bits and pieces here and then they share very small bits and pieces of their experience going through the war. I think it’s just a really difficult thing to talk about. Now that I think about it, actually, my mom did share a lot with me about her childhood and like her early teen years. So she went away from home to get an education and growing up, she was one of like, I want to say 10 siblings, 10 or 11. And so she had [to] share in like the childcare duties and things like that. And so education was important, but at the same time she had all of these other obligations. And so I think for us, growing up, you know, they wanted us to be able to focus on education and bettering our lives and having opportunities and a lot of things that they didn’t have growing up. But, yeah, I mean, I know my parents worked hard, they worked really long hours, you know, like all the time that they spent looking, and all of the money that they would make, they would invest back into my sister and I, so that was, you know, through our education, through extracurricular activities, always making sure that we didn’t feel like we were without, I guess you could say.

Raymond (07:35):

Yeah. Now you growing up here in the South Bay, Bay Area—just in general being connected, are you aware of the fact that maybe in some neighborhoods, you know, just in San Jose too where there are some neighborhoods that benefit from more money coming into the neighborhoods and their schools. On the other side of it, maybe not so much, right. There is somewhat, somewhat of a divide. Tell me about your thoughts on that and you know, if you’ve had any kind of experience.

Kathee (08:04):

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s really interesting for me because I grew up going to a private school, and the reason my parents chose to move to Campbell when I was growing up was because at the time it was a nice neighborhood to be in, the school district was great, and so if we had to utilize the public school system, we would be able to be at a better, a better school I guess you could say. So now that I’m a parent and I have a son that is going to be entering first grade in a week or so, all of this has become really, really apparent to me. And at the time we were living in South San Jose when he started kindergarten. So the school that we were zoned for, if you go and check out all the ratings and stuff was, I believe like a 3 out of 10.

Kathee (08:55):

And so I was just like, wow, how is this that a school can be rated so poorly, that the kids are not performing, you know, in all of the different subject areas that they should be. And so I realized, okay, it’s one a matter of funding, like the amount of money that goes into this school and the community. Attendance, for example, that’s another big thing that determines how schools are funded and just, I think the general makeup of like the students. So kids who come from low-income families or like working-class families, a lot of times parents don’t have the time or the resources to further invest in education. And so even if programs are available, they’re not being utilized. And so, we actually transferred to a different school district, and ended up moving into the neighborhood, or the area where we’re zoned for, for the school that Tyler does go to now. And it’s a little bit better, but even so I still feel like they’re sorely lacking, you know, in resources and community outreach and just education within the community.

Raymond (10:03):

Yeah. That’s really interesting because where you originally were living, and you as a parent, of course, number one priority is that you want your child to have the best possible opportunity and education available to them. And I’m assuming it’s just by location, you know, whatever the closest schools are, I’m guessing.

Raymond (10:24):

And because you’re kind of driven by wanting the best opportunity for your son, you know, you want it to kind of transfer out and even then where you were transferring, wasn’t like drastically better, you know, but was there any difficulties that you have experienced and kind of some troubles in that process where you’re talking, you know, amongst yourselves, as parents who say, what do we do? Do we enroll Tyler into this school? If not, are we gonna have to move?

Kathee (10:55):

Yeah. So when it came time to enroll, I did not feel that sending him to the school that we were zoned for at the time would be beneficial. I just, you know, if he were to go to a school where the level of learning and where it’s so varied or where it’s below, you know, where he’s at, it just doesn’t seem like he’s going to thrive. So we knew obviously we had to do something and so it was do we stay here, do we look into private schools, or do we try to transfer him to another district? And it wasn’t a difficult process. And I think every parent wants the best for their child. And so you’ll explore all the options available to you. For us, private school currently, for elementary is just not an option. It’s just too expensive.

Kathee (11:45):

So the next best option for us was just to find another school and doing intra district transfer, so transfer out of district to another school. There was almost sort of a feeling of guilt transferring him out of our district, the one that we were zoned for, because taking one student away means one less attendee and less funding for that district. And so, I’m going to do what’s best for my child, obviously, and his education, but at the same time, I do have, you know, a little bit of guilt feeling like I’m divesting from the community and from the kids who go to school in that district.

Raymond (12:23):

Yeah. I don’t think anyone would hold that against you saying like, no, you have to keep your, your child here in this district. Like you said, you have to do what’s best for your child. And every parent is doing that, honestly. Have you attended some parent teacher conferences and those kinds of meetings?

Kathee (12:41):

So early on, I think in the first few months of school, there were several emails sent about the school, looking into leasing some of their property as a way to generate more revenue and funds for the school. And so just reading that, I mean, I knew already that schools were lacking in funding and resources, but that made it even more apparent to me that, you know, they’re in dire need of funds,

Raymond (13:08):

You as a parent, does that concern you of Tyler’s education just in general? Obviously you’re not there in class but everyday—

Kathee (13:16):

So I actually, was in his classroom every week volunteering to do reading groups and my husband was doing, I think it was every Monday was volunteering to help out PE. And so, it was actually really interesting to me that the school relied so much on parent volunteers. Just because they didn’t have enough manpower to, you know, basically run all of these daily activities and things, but kids do like PE and reading. And—

Raymond (13:48):

Is there a lot of other parents that are there with you? Like what’s the—

Kathee (13:52):

No. So I actually, there was one more parent, but for the most part, I think there were a handful of other parent volunteers, and because I have a more flexible work schedule, I was able to volunteer more consistently, but I think the majority of parents are working parents like outside of the home and unable to, you know, designate time to be in the classroom. And so for me, one, I enjoyed being in the classroom with Tyler, but at the same time, I also felt like I had an obligation to do so, because of my flexibility. And I just thought that, you know, like his education does hinge on my—not a 100 percent—but on my participation, yes. Like, you know, parent participation is important, but I just felt like the kids would be at a disadvantage and would be missing out on a lot of enriching activities and things like that without our participation. And I think it’s a great experience for both parents and students to share in the education experience for parents to be in the classroom, but when the school’s having to depend on parents, you know, in order to run PE class, or in order to have small reading groups or art projects and things like that, it just seems like that’s kind of problematic.

Raymond (15:07):

Right. And I just don’t think that’s sustainable because who knows, not every parent may have a flexible schedule. I want to touch upon COVID-19 in terms of how things have changed from the parent’s perspective. And I’ve always been curious because I spoke with the teacher and they have struggles in terms of needing the resources. But now, what’s your experience like in terms of needing to shift. I’m assuming that, you know, Tyler’s at home and he’s not at school, but what’s kind of been changed, what’s been the updates and the general direction from the school.

Kathee (15:45):

So initially, I think it was in March that shelter-in-place happened. And the school pivoted pretty quickly in terms of shifting the way that, you know, kids are doing learning, so to virtual learning. And I think at first, everybody was really on board and it was like, you know, this is novel and fun and cool, but I don’t think it’s sustainable. And I think it obviously was like the only option that’s safe right now, but it’s presented a lot of challenges for us as working parents. And just for Tyler, you know, as just a young kid, like nothing can replace, I think, social and human interaction, but yeah, it’s been a struggle. It’s definitely presented its challenges and we’re starting school again in like a week or two. And it’s like four hours of distance learning every day.

Raymond (16:36):

Have you noticed, or had to cover some of the resources that the school normally would, but I guess you now do because they’re at home,

Kathee (16:46):

I’ve been chatting with other parents and trying to figure out how to come up with these small learning pods. And so kind of trying to supplement their learning with a private tutor or, you know, other activities like outdoor distance activities, just to, I don’t know, break up the day or like boost what they’re getting through distance learning. It’s definitely not the same as in class learning. And so, yeah, we, we are going to have to supplement it in some way.

Raymond (17:17):

You mentioned that you wanted to be more civically engaged and socially active, and I want to also tie in with that question is one, where does that come from and two, how does that look for you from the perspective of being a fairly new parent?

Kathee (17:35):

So I think almost everything that I do now is through the lens of a parent and, you know, like how my decisions and everything are going to affect my kids and their outlook on things and their future. And I think in light of the upcoming election—presidential election—all of the things that have been going on in recent months with the health crisis, Black Lives Matter, just all of that has just made me sit back and think a lot more about, you know, like what the world will be like in 10, 20 years, and what my children will be like. And one, I always say like education, yes is super, super important, but just empathy and just like an understanding of, you know, the world and the people around you is really important. And so I think I’ve kind of been quiet on a lot of these issues and never really voiced a strong opinion or position one way or another, but just all of these recent events have made me feel a lot more, I don’t know, awakened, I guess, and wanting to contribute to positive change.

Raymond (18:42):

Yeah. I’m really happy to see a lot more people starting to be aware and open to learning, because I think that’s the, that’s the key thing. So that’s really, that’s really good. Glad to hear that kind of mindset that you have.

Kathee (18:58):

Yeah. I mean, I think I grew up pretty privileged, you know, I think I had a lot of opportunities and my parents sacrificed a lot so that I would have those opportunities. And now as a parent, I’m doing everything I can to give my kids those opportunities too, but I want them to be aware and to know that they don’t live in this bubble of opportunity, you know, where everything is available to them and that there are so many other children out there, and so many people in the world that don’t have all of these opportunities and that they have to look outside of this little bubble that we live in, and realize how privileged they are and what they have and what so many other people do not have.

Raymond (19:39):

Yeah. So last question I have is, so if Schools and Communities First gets passed, it’ll be a win for us. What does that future kind of look like for you in terms of the community that you want for Tyler?

Kathee (19:53):

I think it’s, you know, even though we’re not going to see an immediate impact, like it’s going to get passed and things might not necessarily change tomorrow, like you were saying. But I think it’s important to continue doing the work because we’re here to, like, our parents came over here to make a better life for us. And in turn, we need to shape the future, and make it better for future generations. And so I have been talking a lot about like how I think it’s important to recognize that there is a huge disparity between, you know, different groups in the community and working to better and close that gap, I guess, so that there’s a more even playing field for everybody is super important. And as I was reading the narrative that you sent over to me about how we need to kind of shift the thinking from, you know, like pulling yourself up from your bootstraps kind of mentality, to like investing in the whole community and making sure that resources are available to all is super important. And I think that old bootstraps mentality is super misguided. And part of that, I feel like makes people resistant to wanting to put money into the community.

Raymond (21:06):

Well, thank you so much, Kathee, for your time. I think the conversation was very enlightening and quite enjoyable for me.

Kathee (21:14):

Well, thank you for having me!

Raymond (21:17):

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund and Project by Project San Francisco. If you’d like to learn more about us, visit our website at and Thanks for listening. Ad paid for by Chinese Progressive Association, nonprofit 501c3. Committee major funding from Chinese Progressive Association.



Reclaiming the California Dream – Episode 2: Teaching Through Budget Crises

Reclaiming the California Dream

Episode 2 - Teaching Through Budget Crises

Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund ( and Project by Project San Francisco (

Produced by Raymond Luu. 


Episode 2:

As a 5th grade teacher, Eunice Buenaflor balances teaching, curriculum development, and budgeting as she faces increasing budget cuts every year.


Raymond (00:00):

Hey everyone. If you’re curious on what’s going to be on this year’s upcoming election join Project by Project and AAPI FORCE on Sunday, October 11th, at 7:00 PM, where we will be covering this year’s critical election. We’ll be talking about important ballot measures and the positions that impact our community the most. To register for the event, go to Again, that’s project by

Raymond (00:39):

Hey everyone, I’m your host. Raymond Luu. Welcome to our limited podcast series, Reclaiming the California dream. We’ll be hearing stories from some amazing individuals and how much their community means to them. Schools and Communities First act, also known as Proposition 15 will restore 1$2 billion a year in funding for our roads, parks and libraries, health clinics, and trauma centers, local schools, and community colleges. By working together to pass Schools and Communities First, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families, and build a future where all Californians have access to quality, healthcare, and education we deserve. Today. We’ll be talking with Eunice Buenaflor. As a Fifth grade teacher, she shares some of her struggles she’s had to deal with regarding budget cuts teaching during a pandemic, and why she’s concerned about education since it’s always the first to make sacrifices during a financial crisis. Hello, Eunice. Let’s go ahead and start with something easy and go ahead and introduce yourself.

Eunice (01:43):

Yeah, so my name is Eunice Buenaflor, and I’m 28 and I live in Corona, California. I’m a general ed teacher for fifth grade. This is my second year going into my third year, actually. So this past distance learning was my second year and now I’m moving into my third year.

Raymond (02:02):

And where did you grow up?

Eunice (02:04):

So I grew up in the East Bay area of the Bay area and you know, lived there until 2016 and then I moved to Southern California.

Raymond (02:16):

And you mentioned what really kind of got you into teaching?

Eunice (02:21):

So I’ve always had, I need, this is very cliche and a lot of educators. Do you say this, but they’ve always, I’ve always had that passion to work with students. And you know, this passion kind of grew with my time at Boys and Girls Club and different times where I’ve, you know, been exposed to children and how wonderful and magnificent that can be and being able to kind of push for better teachers because growing up, I, you know, it was either a hit or miss. So I knew that my personality would have been a good fit. And, it was really a drive that just wouldn’t go away. So I answered that call. I started out as business, economics, and I really answered that call to, you know, what, what makes you happy and that kind of fit into the education world.

Raymond (03:08):

Let’s kind of talk about your upbringing here in the Bay Area. And if you could share with me just a little bit about your own family history.

Eunice (03:16):

So I was born in Berkeley, California, born and raised in the Bay Area. My parents, my mom and dad were both from the Philippines. And they came over here. Of course like your typical immigrant story, they came here for a better life. And what happened was my dad was petitioned by his oldest sister and then married my mother and my mother soon followed to the United States. They were very lucky in this situation. They were in bought a house when it was still fair market prices then and you know, really wanted that American Dream.

Raymond (03:50):

Hmm. Now I can imagine given your family background that and where you grew up, you had the opportunity to being exposed to different cultures and backgrounds. Could you share with me maybe some of the benefits that you experienced growing up in that type of environment and also share what it was like in a school setting,

Eunice (04:16):

Being able to grow up in that has a lot of, a lot of benefits. And in the school that I was in, I had the ability to explore those different things. In terms of school districts, I was supposed to go to a district that was not as well off in their education and my mom didn’t have a lot of money growing up. My mom was a breadwinner. So in her… In hindsight, you know, I want to give my child’s a better education. That’s why they came to America. So she really put her brides in there and really worked multiple jobs in order to send me to a better school. And you know, with that sacrifice, I was able like you know, to have those privileges, for example, one-on-one techno…, Well, not one on one technology to technology in general, back in the two thousands, we didn’t really have that concept of one-on-one yet because technology was still a new thing growing up.

Eunice (05:12):

I had the ability to really go into career day that school and, you know, see how the community came in and volunteered their time to share what their job was like and being able to see, wow, like, you know, these are the steps that they took and not all schools have that ability to have those career days. But I was very thankful for that. And it wasn’t until going into, I say this all the time, it wasn’t into going into general education in a public school setting that you really see the inequities that happen. And, you know, I want to be able to have that for all children. Cause I, I believe that, you know, depending on your zip code, it shouldn’t dictate what your future looks like. Right. So being able to see that compare and contrast was very, very eye opening.

Raymond (06:01):

So having a public education system is essential to communities primarily because it’s available to the public. However, that also means it’s held to a public budget, which fully does go through cuts time from time. Do you have any firsthand experience of a school program or resource being a victim of budget cuts?

Eunice (06:28):

I think early on and while I was still a student a lot of our older students who pass our grade or like those grades above us, went to the summer camp and they all had that ability to have that experience while when I came in, budgets were cut and I wasn’t able to experience that. And of course, as a child, you don’t really know the implications or the heartaches, you know, but now I’m very much aware of like the school budget. And what does that look like? And now going into schools now like we are given a certain budget as a teacher and it is not the biggest budget. You know, because you have to fund multiple grade levels and each grade level has multiple teachers. So, you know, we’re given an X amount of money and that is completely, you know, dissipated or disappeared in like a week or two, because we fund supplies, we fund classroom materials, reading curriculum, supplementary curriculum, and that money though, it’s, it’s a good amount of money.

Eunice (07:34):

It disappears. And after that, we’re kind of stuck with, how do we supplement? Do we get parent donations? Do we have a Donors Choose set up to you know, fill in those gaps? Right. So last year I actually got a decrease in my budget about a hundred dollars. And you know, I see a hundred dollars as, you know, class set of books or I see a hundred dollars as art materials because we don’t have an art teacher or I see those as materials that I can use as a steam project. Right. So I have to be very careful with that and I have to plan ahead and how to reallocate what I buy and what I don’t.

Raymond (08:17):

I mean, excuse my ignorance, but I mean, you just listed a long list of things you have to think about on top of the core curriculum that you have to teach to your students. I’m just curious, how do you maintain some level of I mean, sanity when you’re teaching,

Eunice (08:36):

Right. You know, as a teacher, you kind of… The mood of your class really is from the energy that you put in. So if you seem distraught, the kids are…like they know right away. And you know, they say like, “Oh, you know, last year I had XYZ this year, I don’t have XYZ.” So in terms of that, you know, we have to really reach out to our parents. And like I said, parent teacher associations are vastly different in different school districts. Sometimes you get, you know, really gung ho parents and they want to participate. They want to be active. They want to put on all of these, you know events for children like the current district that I’m in. But those also do come with challenges. And then you have the other side where, you know, the parents are working full time jobs and they don’t have time to spend with their kids.

Eunice (09:28):

And you know, as you know, the current distance learning, that was a very big challenge for our parents. So it really depends on how well off your community is. And it shows with the amount of funding you get from those parents. I can get, you know, a lot of donations at one school, but I remember previously as a student teacher, I didn’t get anything right. So when I don’t get anything, of course I have to supplement. And I like to say that I am a very frugal person because a lot of my money goes towards funding those supplies. And it’s just because that’s just how it is. And you don’t complain about it because that’s just kind of the, I guess, frontier that you decided to take as a teacher. That’s something that, you know, that you have to do.

Raymond (10:20):

How has COVID-19 impacted you as an educator?

Eunice (10:24):

It’s, it’s hard to plan. And in terms of teaching, it’s all about planning ahead. And you know, when you’re given weeks of information and, you know, information that constantly changes within the minutes sometimes it’s really hard to understand what the next school year is going to look like. A lot of our teachers are very adaptable but a lot of them, you know, draw that line of, I want to be able to know what’s going to happen. I want to be able to know what I can expect, what safety looks like for parents, teachers, and staff. So it’s very difficult. I can’t, you know, divulge or say much about what our personal school’s doing. But it is unprecedented times. And you know, of course we wish it was another way,

Raymond (11:17):

Learning more about Schools and Communities First, you know, Proposition 15, about reclaiming 12 billion a year. So we can reinvest in, in our public school system, our public health system, critical local services by closing corporate tax loopholes. All that, I imagine given kind of what you’ve explained to me so far is the need to lean in, on distance learning. So, I mean, I gotta assume that the demand for technology is going to be even greater and the resources for that is going to be greater. Right?

Eunice (11:50):

Right. So technology is a big thing in distance learning. Not every child has internet capability. Being able to provide hotspots for our children, and even with hotspots, you know, there’s internet that is unreliable. And sometimes they’re not able to put in information or their assignments in on time. And devices in general devices are very expensive and to move curriculum into an online base is very, very unfair for many students who only have maybe one or not, you know, before it was simple to get away with it with libraries and public libraries that you can do, but it doesn’t have the ability to have one-to-one for students, which is ideal, right. If you’re going to have an online program, you’re going to have a way to access online programs. And that’s not the case for a lot of our families. So that resource really is going to go towards how can we supply our children with the adequate amount of technology that they need, charges that they need. And with families, you know, who have upwards of three kids, two kids, one kid, you know, it’s hard, especially if they’re sharing one family computer with different grade levels.

Raymond (13:01):

So I think about how some schools have adequate funding and perhaps another school in another neighborhood, not too far away does not. Why and how some schools are chosen to receive more funding than others is probably a whole list of things that, you know, we don’t have to kind of get to right now, but what did you say having more money to go around more revenue flowing into our communities could quite possibly remedy some of those issues.

Eunice (13:30):

Yeah. So, you know, I worked at the school district, San Jose actually, and it, the different schools were very different, even if they were part of the same district with the funds. I think we could give students a very good curriculum, updated textbooks, updated online resources. I dunno if you know, there’s a bunch of educational resources out there that are amazing. Some that are on the top of my head is Nearpod Brain Pop, all of those technology based things that provide students with virtual field trips. So being able to fund stuff like that will make education so much more exciting and give our students any student… Regardless of, you know, their tax bracket, whether their parents make, it gives them a fighting chance. You know, there’s a situation where, you know, students can only have textbooks or only get the bare minimum versus schools that are able to provide those, you know, trips to Washington, DC trips to New York trips to camp or museums. Right. So being able to give that fighting chance is something that I’m so passionate about because every child deserves that chance. You know, because it’s, when you’re born into a poor neighborhood, it’s very hard to get out of it if you don’t have those resources available.

Raymond (14:59):

You know I’d like to kind of get your perspective on why community is really important, especially for children of a young age.

Eunice (15:10):

So as an educator, from my perspective, I think community is so, so important because you don’t know what a child’s home life is. You don’t know how consistent, how you know, they run their day to day. Sometimes our kids are babysitting their own little siblings or they don’t have their parents to help them. So being able to have a sense of community is sometimes the only sense of consistency that they have. And with kids, consistency is so important. I cannot stress that enough. If a child is able to follow a consistent schedule, a consistent place where they have to be, which is why distance learning is so criticized, because it doesn’t have that consistency for them. So the sense of community has a sense of belonging and has a sense of self or that student, we practice a lot of social, emotional learning.

Eunice (16:00):

And one of that is how can our community help our children gain social, emotional health or strengthen their social, emotional learning. Right. So you know, I had students who, I can’t say the name and whatnot, but I’ve had students who didn’t have a consistent schedule and coming into a new school, that student was, was very much a student that no one really wanted to be around, but later on building that community, which is a very slow process, but a process that is very important, you can see the drastic change. Like it was like, like different person in general at the end of the year, right? So that was something that I knew community worked for this person,

Raymond (16:47):

Something I’d like to get your thoughts on California currently ranks as the fifth biggest economy in the world. We have Silicon Valley, the entertainment industry, agriculture, some of the top higher education schools here, lots and lots of money flowing through our state and really some of the brightest minds ever to kind of come out of here yet for K through 12 education, California ranks, 37th in the US. Why do you think that is?

Eunice (17:18):

Because we don’t have equitable resources at all. So it…being an educator and seeing different types of districts, I think I’ve been into about four districts. I’ve worked for very well off districts and seen the ability that they have and various, yes, low economic or low social economic districts, that there was barely scraping by. So if we are able to focus on K through 12 education, we can definitely change the lives of students that, you know, otherwise would have had to go to work right away, not ability to have that higher education in which I’m not saying, you know, you can’t, you don’t have to be a college graduate to be very successful, but it definitely helps for some kids to have that … That possibility, you know, to have that higher education. So I think it boils down to, we need to get more computers. We need to get more resources, books, updated curriculum to all students, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic standing.

Raymond (18:30):

So I recently read an op-ed to the San Francisco Chronicle where they talk about the 2008 economic crisis and how we need to lean into education instead of taking money out of it. Certainly we’re heading into another financial crisis with the coronavirus…if you were standing in front of a public official or state legislator, lawmaker thinking about possibly, but budget cutting education, what would you say to them?

Eunice (18:59):

It’s really hard because education is always the first we cut, taking those hits after hits, after hits. It’s like, well, what else, what do we have left, right? Is it laying off teachers or, you know, with, with class sizes, getting higher in order to fit that need you know, I want to tell them that it is very difficult as an educator to provide a good education for my kids when I don’t have any, and to continue to pull from that. It’s like, we’ve been hit many times already. So if we are continuing to be hit, what is left over, right. So it’s very difficult to provide that for kids if we continue to get hit like that.

Raymond (19:50):

Last question, Eunice, if Schools and Communities First passed, how would you personally like to see those resources used?

Eunice (19:58):

So I’m a, I’m an avid person who believes that students should have a wide range of books to read. We share books and my school class sets. And that’s something that I wish we didn’t have to do. Because I think every child should be able to read a book in school without any idea of where it’s going to come from, because books are expensive, especially for 30, a class of 30. I want my kids to know that they have the devices, technology devices that are readily available to them. We don’t have to think twice about what brands we need to put. A lot of teachers use Donors Choose where they have to type up a whole spiel of why they need to be funded. And something I didn’t touch upon is how we can better accommodate for our IEP.

Eunice (20:45):

And I have a four students are students with special needs and special accommodations. So not being able to think twice of where I need to get these things that are needed for students like timers, so they can time themselves of what they need to work on bouncy balls that they need, or for them to be able to take a break. Those are all expensive. Those are all very, very much funded by teachers or by grants, right? So I want to be able to not think about where I’m going to get my resources or do I have to think if, you know, Joey needs school supplies, cause I I’m going to need to buy school supplies for Joey. So that’s something that I want to do is have the ability to not know where my supplies come from, just to know that we have them

Raymond (21:35):

Well, Eunice again, thank you so much for taking the time out to go ahead and speak with me today. And I want to say thank you again for the work that you do for our community and how important you are.

Eunice (21:48):

Thank you. Alright, bye.

Raymond (21:53):

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund and Project by Project San Francisco. If you’d like to learn more about us, visit our website at and ad. Paid for by Chinese progressive association, nonprofit 501c3. Committee major funding from Chinese Progressive Association.


Reclaiming the California Dream – Episode 1: Why Are We Here?

Reclaiming the California Dream

Episode 1 - Why Are We Here?

Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund ( and Project by Project San Francisco (

Produced by Raymond Luu. 


Episode 1:

An introduction by Raymond Luu, National Program Manager for Project by Project SF and Lan Nguyen, Communications Manager for AAPIs for Civic Empowerment. They talk about how this show came to be, what to know about Schools and Communities First, and why it’s important to be an empowered voter for the upcoming election. Brought to you by Project by Project San Francisco & AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund. Produced by Raymond Luu. Music:


Raymond (00:00):

Welcome everyone to the… Aw I already messed up. Welcome everyone to the Reclaiming the California Dream podcast series. I wanted to introduce you to the organizations that made this show possible. We have Lan Nguyen with AAPI FORCE and I’m Raymond Luu from Project by Project. So Lan, if you want to start by introducing yourself and the organization.

Lan (00:35):

Yeah, for sure. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Lan. I use she/her pronouns and I am the communications manager at AAPI FORCE; that stands for AAPIs for Civc Empowerment. And we are a statewide organization that seeks to build working class Asian American and Pacific Islander political power across California. We advocate for progressive issues and empower working class AAPI communities to be civically engaged. And with the upcoming election this November, we are making sure that folks are not only voting for who is going to be our next president of the United States, but making sure that folks are going to be involved in voting down the ballot, voting for initiatives that are going to impact communities every day in the state of California. And some of these issues include Prop 15, which is what this podcast is about. As well as affirmative action.

Lan (01:26):

We also have some criminal justice issues on the ballot. So there’s a lot of things at stake, this election for folks to really vote towards change in our community. So we want to make sure that folks are civically engaged and also encouraging folks to take the leap and join us in our movement. And really, to me, it’s the goal isn’t necessarily to persuade people, to join my side or to believe in the same things I believe in, but to empower people, to give them the opportunity, to learn more about the issue on their own, you know, like some of these folks may not have voted down the ballot. They may have stopped at the top or maybe they would have sat out the election. So I think really the key thing that I get out of these conversations is empowering people to make their own decisions and also building relationships too is so meaningful.

Raymond (02:14):

Cool. Again, Lan, glad to have you on here again, part of this project. So I’m Raymond Luu, again, as I mentioned at the start, I’m a national program manager for Project by Project and the producer of the show. Our organization has been around since 1998, and we currently operate out of three chapters, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and I’m based here in SF. So every year PbP champions, a different theme and each chapter with their local nonprofit organization that specializes in that theme. And in tackling that issue, we empower our steering committee members to support our beneficiary partners by ways like fundraising, community outreach, volunteer mobilization, and it’s through this work. And we also focus our efforts on internal leadership development, really by giving our members opportunities to flex their knowledge and skills, to create initiatives that help their communities and networks, and also the organization, our organization.

Raymond (03:15):

We also host an annual tasting benefit called Plate by Plate in each city. Not sure if any of you happen to go to one, but basically the, the event features some of our best and local restaurant and beverage binders for all of our attendees to enjoy. The money that we raise, go to support our beneficiary partners and the amazing work that they do for the community. So this year we’re focusing on civic and political engagement. Don’t really have to say much in terms of why that’s important this year, but we also try to frame it as voter empowerment. You know we really want to try to educate our members and their networks on where to find resources, to ensure they’re equipped with the proper information so they can make an educated decision at the ballot box.

Lan (04:03):

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the racial group that is least likely to be contacted about the elections out of all the racial groups. So we are hoping to change that. So I hope that folks who are listening will consider joining us in our movement to contact voters.

Raymond (04:21):

And so why we started the show I met Lan in one of the workshops that AAPI FORCE was hosting and one of their initiatives in terms of trying to educate people of what Schools and Communities First/Prop 15 was, is really telling the stories and highlighting stories of folks who are part of the community key players in the community key community members. And we’re talking teachers, students park workers, public workers, pretty much anyone in your neighborhood that you can think of where we wanted to encapsulate the feel of why their community was so important and necessarily more importantly, why resources going into those communities are super important. And so I came to Lan to say, Hey, you know, why don’t we basically tell stories in an audio format and create like this limited podcast series where we interview people, capture their stories, really capture the feel of why their community is important to them.

Lan (05:27):

We are so grateful that we have come to know you and have you in our community of volunteers and our community of AAPI FORCE members. And it was just such a wonderful gift of you to produce this podcast for us. And I think it’s going to be, it’s going to do a lot of good. It’s not just going to be put out there for folks to listen to and learn more about Schools and Communities First. But I also think that it allowed us to form connections with the folks who are interviewed. I think a lot of the folks who were interviewed didn’t know about Prop 15 and, you know, we reach out to them. We tell them a little bit about prop 15 and just ask them to tell their story. And in telling their story, they’re making these connections of like, you know, like I went through these experiences, these are the challenges that I have, and this is how it …

Lan (06:15):

It connects to Prop 15. So they’re making those connections on their own, through their own storytelling. And I think that’s what organizing is. Organizing isn’t about telling people what to think or what to do, but having, like helping people and encouraging people to reflect on their own experiences and make their own political decisions. I don’t think the conversations that we had were too different from the conversations that I’ve had in phone bank sessions, obviously phone making sessions are a lot shorter, but I would say that they’re really similar. And it’s just about connecting with people and getting to know their stories. Yeah.

Raymond (06:49):

Then since we’ve been talking about it, can you just kind of briefly describe what Schools and Communities first Act is, or proposition 15, basically the summary of it.

Lan (07:00):

Yes. Schools and CommunitiesFirst, also known as Prop 15 is going to be on the November ballot. It is a California statewide initiative that aims to bring back $12 billion to our schools and community programs by closing a property tax loophole for corporations. So due to proposition 13, that was passed in 1978 homeowners as well as corporations benefited from this proposition that basically capped property taxes. And as a result of that, our schools and our community programs that rely on tax dollars have been severely underfunded. So Prop 15 is going to keep that protection for homeowners and not touch homeowner taxes, but it will be asking for corporations to be paying market rate on property taxes.

Raymond (07:52):

I want to kind of close it out here in terms of the importance of why civic and political engagement is important this time around. I think it’s always been important, but if we take in, if we’re looking at the lens from the time 2016 elections happened to where we are today, why civic and political engagement is so important today?

Lan (08:13):

I would say it’s the landscape is so different, not just for AAPI communities, but for all communities. We have so many things that have happened that have led to people of all races coming to this awakening of the issues in our country. We have, COVID-19 showing everyone in this country how we don’t have an infrastructure set up for disaster preparedness. We don’t have a safety net and in place for when our hospitals run out of supplies or when everyone loses their jobs and they’re not able to pay rent, we don’t have anything set in place for that. We’re also seeing a public cry for police reform and abolition coming from folks who are directly impacted by violence from police. And we’re seeing civil unrest in people. And we’re also seeing dramatic change in a really big direction. We’re seeing city councils voting to defund the police and to cut police budgets, to spend on schools and other programs are really beneficial for communities.

Lan (09:18):

So I think in this moment, we’re seeing a lot of people realize the deep rooted structures in our society that aren’t serving us, aren’t, aren’t doing as good, but, and we’re also seeing hope. We’re seeing that when people rise up and they are engaged in whatever way, they want to be engaged, whether it’s voting, whether it’s through the streets, whether it’s calling their representatives, that leads to change. So I think to answer your question, we’re seeing both an obvious need for change. And we’re also seeing that when people fight back, we win change. There’s a lot of hope as well as the realization of the problem.

Raymond (09:57):

Definitely I am wholeheartedly onboard with that. I personally have learned in this whole process of this show is that it’s about listening. It’s about understanding where they’re coming from. How do we highlight those stories? And so I’m really excited for the show. And if you want to learn more about our organizations, go to

Lan (10:20):

And to follow AAPI FORCE, please go to

Raymond (10:29):

Thanks everyone.

Raymond (10:33):

You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram, if you just search Project by Project San Francisco and AAPI FORCE. So if you’re really interested in our show and can’t wait to hear about the stories that we have to tell, share, follow our show, to stay updated on the weekly releases.

Raymond (10:58):

Ad paid for by Chinese Progressive Association, nonprofit 501(c)3 Committee Major funding from Chinese Progressive Association.