Courtesy photo
Long Phan in front of the White House.

Long Phan: From White Center to the White House

By Ann Kendall

His parents told him, “You’re going to have to work hard the rest of your life, so you may as well enjoy it.” Evergreen grad Long Phan holds these words (and his family) close to this heart this summer as he interns at the White House – a dream a long-time and many miles in the making. When his parents immigrated to the United States and settled in White Center, they hoped that Long would do well in school and go to college so that he could work with his mind and not his hands – having a son graduate from Harvard and then intern at the White House is beyond what they hoped for.

Long chose Evergreen, his local public high school, even though his parents were concerned about safety and his well-being. Even at age 13, Long felt compelled to try his local high school and prove that successful students come from all backgrounds and all schools; even then he knew that he wanted to be an active participant in his community. The White Center Community Development Association (WCCDA) provided inspiration on how to engage in community concerns and ways to believe in and help fellow students. After graduating from the University of Washington, he landed in corporate finance; with his first paycheck he started a scholarship fund at Evergreen for first-generation college students. That scholarship fund grew into a mentoring program that assists students as they prepare for college applications; over the first four years of the program 10 mentors assisted 50 students apply and garner scholarships.

While he had dreamed of Harvard during high school, he knew he wasn’t ready to take the chance on applying until he had several years’ work experience; even at that, his first two applications were not successful but because he never lost sight of his goal, he applied a third time and earned a spot at the Graduate School of Education. His focus there on education policy and management led him to his next achievement, garnering an intern spot at the White House for summer 2014 following his Harvard graduation. Long plans to return to Seattle and pursue a career in public service while continuing to improve the community he grew up in while teaching others the importance of doing so. He says, “Like President Obama, I believe that a child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in, but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams.”

Long points out that he benefited greatly from the positive role models in his life that continue to influence him today; his parents, his Evergreen Spanish teacher Kristin Roy and his adopted American grandfather and long-time White Center resident Bob Seifert (now passed away) who opened his home to the Long family when they arrived as refugees in the U.S. From Bob he learned to believe in community, to participate in community organizations like WCCDA and to open your door to those in need. Bob gave Long the gift of reading – a gift that fuels Long’s vision to help as many students in White Center, and beyond, achieve their own educational dreams.

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