Vanessa Teck is a woman who wears many hats. A Cambodian-American fourth year student at University of Denver (DU), Teck, 21, is studying a double major in Intercultural Communications and Digital Media Studies with a double minor in Marketing and Leadership Studies. But that’s not all—Teck is involved in several student organizations at DU, including Undergraduate Student Government, Excelling Leaders Institute, Asian Student Alliance, and the Midwest Asian American Students Union (MAASU).
“Young adults feel voiceless, but once you invest in something you truly care about, every move you make can cause change,” said Teck, who exhibits the passion increasingly discovered by young Asian Pacific American (APA) students. “There seems to be a heightened awareness of APA issues and how the APA community in Colorado differs from others,” she said.
Teck is currently chair of the Collaboration of Asian American Student Leaders of Colorado (CAASL), a newly founded organization dedicated to uniting disjointed Colorado APA student organizations. With the help of a collaborative APA community, Teck’s experience as Public Relations Chair of MAASU and Vietnamese Student Association only benefit her as she works to connect groups with similar interests. In addition, her involvement in the APA community also include the Miss Asian American Colorado Leadership Program, Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations and Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families (Cambodian Camp). Last year, she studied abroad in southeast Asia, spending time visiting Cambodia and Vietnam.
According to Teck, engaging the APA community is the only solution to issues that young adults face, such as the model minority stereotype. “While this external pressure to excel may seem like a positive one, it has been the source of stress throughout my educational career,” she said. “Asian American students are often considered to have ‘made it,’ resulting in less outreach.”
Helping students break down barriers in order to reach self-awareness and self-actualization are part of Teck’s career goals. Attending the Denver School for International Studies fueled her passion for social justice and inclusive excellence. As a high school senior, she was awarded by the Denver Public Schools’ Asian Education Advisory Council for her achievements in academics and leadership.
“The opportunity to be involved in organizations, both on my campus and within the community, have actually allowed me to become a more engaged student,” she said. However, most of Teck’s inspiration stems from adversity her family has overcome as refugees who entered the United States in the 1980s.
“My family is the sole reason why I continue to do the work that I do.”