Here is a questionnaire I completed about my new role as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party, my activism and volunteer efforts over recent years, and our plans for 2021 and beyond to engage in our community and fight for people who have been marginalized.
Tell us about your main professional accomplishments at your workplace:
I was just elected Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party on December 8th, 2020. One of our big accomplishments has been getting young people to be politically engaged. I ran for Congress earlier this year garnering 28,661 (48.5%) in the August 18th Democratic primary. The same volunteer base as well as many new volunteers are joining us to engage with voters in Volusia County. Our overall mission is to help marginalized people, particularly by electing candidates who represent and advocate for everyone.
Tell us about your volunteer efforts in the community in the past two years:
Right now we have a prominent local Democrat matching donations to food banks, so we’re hoping to hit over $2,500 donated with that. People are really hurting right now. I was not politically involved before this year and in fact grew up as a conservative Republican. There was a series of things that transformed my perspective, such as studying financial literacy and the marginalization of teachers, women, and people of color during my PhD dissertation. I’ve become a Black Lives Matter advocate, attending many marches and protests, writing public statements and letters, and so forth. I’ve also become a strong advocate for climate justice and a Green New Deal, having learned the enormity of the greenhouse gases dilemma. What we are fighting for requires political action, because embracing the intersectionality of politics and volunteering provides much more leverage than trying to volunteer while avoiding politics. The causes we are fighting for are as real as ever even though they may have receded in public view recently.
As a teacher educator at the University of Central Florida for over 2 years, I worked to instill a love of learning and of innovative pedagogical practices in our next generation of teachers. Presently I am teaching social studies at New Smyrna Beach High School where I endeavor to bring history alive and meet students where they are at. I have one at-risk student who is showing up to class again, getting excited about U.S. history for the first time, and turning in work. His father is thrilled. In July 2020 I co-chaired the International Conference on Humanities, Social and Education Sciences which brought together researchers from all over the globe in a digital format. Although it may seem a bit unusual, I really love to volunteer as a personal finance educator and want to incorporate this into my role as party chair by holding free events. I have had an enduring interest in this topic having made it the focus of my Master’s degree capstone project in 2016 and Education PhD dissertation in 2019.
Tell us anything else you’ve done to make Volusia and Flagler counties a better place.
I lived in the Holly Hill / Ormond Beach area most of my life and now on the west side of Volusia in Orange City. As a teenager I volunteered (and at age 15 was paid) at the Holly Hill Public Library where I helped put together children’s programs, taught computer classes to senior citizens, and so on. I also worked as a tutor and newspaper editor at Daytona State College, and in 2014–2017 was involved in the Toastmasters nonprofit to help myself and others become better public speakers, as the President of Port Orange Toastmasters for one year and Treasurer for the year after, but I had to give it up to focus on my PhD program.
I am continuing to work now to have a greater impact in this new role as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party. What we are putting together is a team effort of enormous scope. Volusia has been left behind in so many ways, and our neighbors to the north in Flagler too. Cost of living is high, people struggle to get by and often end up having to leave due to lack of opportunity. We need to get more federal dollars flowing in by expanding Medicaid, and we need to push for jobs, industries, laws, and policies that help the people at large instead of a select few. You can expect that our local elected officials will be feeling that pressure under my tenure.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I’m half Chinese, my mother having escaped Communist China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. I was born at Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach and before you ask, no, did not learn the language.
My wife Kristy and I have a son named Jonah, who is turning 2 on February 27th. He is our world!
New year’s statement from the Volusia County Democratic Party:
We know 2020 has been a terrible year for so many of us. The people of Volusia have lost their homes, their jobs, and their loved ones, and the long winter is not yet over. Here is to a brighter 2021. We are here fighting for you.