Kent Tong | A President’s Retrospection

Throughout my seven years in VSA, there have been many instances where I’ve told myself “I’m going to retire after this.” 

When my term as President of LASO ended, I was ready to just be an alumnus. But then I became Executive Director for Camp Delta 8. After that, I was like “Okay, for real this time. I’m done.” But I was bored holding no position, and I found myself itching to continue my involvement in VSA. So I ran and became Co-CORR for the region. Eight months later, I’m President of UVSA Gulf Coast. When I joined the VSA community in 2011, I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d one day be leading the region. Heck, UVSA Gulf Coast didn’t even exist at the time!

Being President of UVSA Gulf Coast for two years is a big commitment, and before running for the position I wasn’t sure if I was up for the task. Two years is a long time, and a lot of life changes can get in the way during this time, so am I sure I want to run? It’s easy to take over an organization that’s strong and has a stable foundation, but it’s harder to take over one that’s still in its infancy. Initially, I was 100% not going to run. It was the easier choice – the safe choice. It was a choice that would be less time-consuming, less stress-inducing, and less work. I don’t remember exactly when I changed my mind and decided to run, but I can remember the reasons why.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a quote that came to mind when I decided to run for president. UVSA Gulf Coast was only two years old at that point, and there was still much room for growth. I had the benefit of working under UVSA Gulf Coast during my term as CORR, so I was able to see first-hand which areas needed improvement. No one else wanted to run for president, no one else seemed to be as passionate about growing the organization, so why not do it myself?

And you know what? I don’t regret that decision one bit.

VSA has given me so much – it’s broken me out of my introverted shell, made me a stronger and more confident individual, and given me life-long friends. I’m glad I’m able to give back. During my term as president I was a witness to our region’s growth and unity; regional pride has never been more evident. Our events got better and better; we were able to establish some new ones too! The organization become more structured and, well, more organized. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without a strong team by my side. Together, we’ve been able to provide a foundation for future leaders of UVSA Gulf Coast, for future generations.

I’m really thankful Mitchell, Thanh-Thanh, Tony, and Lina saw a reason to run for E-Board, especially since I was worried there wouldn’t even be an E-Board. The five of us were more so acquaintances than friends before we were elected, but I am forever thankful that UVSA Gulf Coast brought us all together. The four of them have become family to me. They’re people I can always rely on, and I love each and every one of them. That’s the beauty of VSA. It brings people of different backgrounds together and forms something special. Being able to experience all of this together – the struggles, work, passion, all because we shared the common goal of strengthening our region, has been unforgettable and it’s one I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

One of my favorite photos of me and my team 🙂

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