Vivian Nguyen was only 15 years old when we met, an ambitious sophomore at Martin High School who had stumbled upon the idea of making tie-dye shirts and peddling them online. She called me multiple times to get some kind of coverage, wondering if I’d take a peek at her Dyenosaur Apparel (cute name, I thought) website, which I did, and was, of course, impressed that such a young person would have the creativity and grit to do such a thing while tackling AP classes and extracurriculars and being, well, a teenager.
After speaking with her for about 45 minutes – she did most of the talking, her words flooding out like water rushing escaping from a busted dam, it was clear that Nguyen was a different kind of adolescent. She had managed to handcraft and personalize everything from shirts and socks to scrunchies.
I soon dropped the idea of convincing her to slow her role and not take this strive for success so earnestly. Initially, I saw Nguyen, and others like her going a mile a minute so fast and so young, burning out by age 17
That doesn’t seem to have happened.
Nguyen is now a student at Stanford, which sounds fitting since Palo Alto is boiling over with inventors and innovators and an assortment of other ingenious types who have demonstrated exceptional intellectual abilities and an unadulterated passion for learning.
She considers herself a social entrepreneur and wants to use technology to address systemic inequalities among the marginalized.
“I want to unravel that intersection between socio-economic dilemmas and our society’s healthcare system as it is today,” she said. “And I want to reform that to bridge the gap.”
Looking at the young professionals listed in this issue, the hope is that they all remain in Arlington and make their marks here. That won’t happen with all of them, of course, but the young professionals make significant contributions and enrich our community.
They drive cities’ growth and prosperity, bringing energy, enthusiasm, and new ideas. By embracing those ideas and harnessing their talents, we can look forward to outstanding achievements and a more vibrant, inclusive, and innovative environment.
This all means that pioneering folks tend to rub off on others; I recall Nguyen telling me that if she had seen others her age take the initiative and become successful, she would have been more eager to venture into what she was doing.
“It’s like a ripple effect,” she told me. “By achieving my own goals, I can encourage others to reach for theirs.”
That explains her non-profit organization, The Formula Project, a mentorship program for low-income minority underclassmen to receive support and help develop interpersonal and professional skills.
When Nguyen graduated from Martin, as valedictorian, she was asked what advice she would give incoming first-year students.
Not surprisingly, she emphasized taking the initiative of not being afraid to be the first – at anything.
“A lot of times people might tell you that you’re too young to do things or you don’t have what it takes to succeed or go out there and follow your dreams,” Nguyen said. “
“In high school, what helped me the most was being able to advocate for myself and be a go-getter and seek the assistance I needed. Just to put my name out there and step outside my comfort zone.”