Letter from the Founder

We each live in our own little worlds. We move to places where we feel that we belong. We spend time with folks who dress like us, think like us, and laugh at our jokes. We consume personalized digital and social media that affirm our points of view and allow us to see ourselves the way we want to see ourselves. Over time we encase ourselves into multilayered echo chambers.

How much do we really understand beyond our silos? How can we continue to grow as leaders and as individuals if we stay within our geographic, socioeconomic, and digital bubbles?

I grew up on the east side of San Jose, California. It was a suburban, middle-to-upper class neighborhood with a mix of Hispanic, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Caucasian American families. My parents were Vietnamese boat refugees who endured hardships to thrive in America so that their children could have the kind of sheltered upbringing they did not.   

At 17, believing that there must be more than that suburban life, I enlisted in the US Army. During my time as an enlisted Soldier, through West Point and my deployment I got a chance to venture outside my small world and made friends with folks from all walks of life; from a Christian missionary from France to a Sergeant Major from Georgia who spent his teenage summers as a traveling circus carny. We built bonds through our mutual experiences that continue to this day. This odyssey beyond my San Jose suburb continued after my time in the Army and today my friends across America range from law enforcement officers to struggling artists to hedge fund managers. These relationships and how I cultivate them continue to be the foundation of my growth as a leader and as a person.

However, getting outside your bubble and immersion are not enough. Being an Army Mental Health Specialist and now as a Green Dot Black Rock Ranger taught me that you also need communication tools to not only foster these relationships but also navigate them through uncomfortable conversations leaders should be able to have.

It is this combination of exploring outside of our little worlds and receiving guidance along the journey that enables us to reach our full potentials. Through AYLX, I want to provide our American youth the opportunities and tools I was fortunate enough to receive. I challenge American teens to gain the enriching experiences and skills to become cross-cultural leaders who can connect to diverse lives across our country.

Tony Nguyen
Founder/Executive Director