Khoa Nguyen Acts Locally, Thinks Globally

Michele Bowles

On the bus to boot camp, Khoa Nguyen thought he’d be back in a couple days. He was completely oblivious to the fact that he’d just signed five years of his life away to the Marine Corps.

Nguyen was recruited into the Marines at the age of eighteen. He literally did not understand what he was getting himself into. English was his second language. He did not fully comprehend the transformation his life was about to take.

“I didn’t know I was joining, I didn’t speak English. I just liked the way the recruiter dressed, the way he walked and talked. I just nodded along as he spoke,” Nguyen laughed.

Although it wasn’t his idea, serving for the U.S. Marines turned out to be one of the best decisions Nguyen has ever made. In high school he was the student with headphones on and a book opened during his lunch hour. He described himself as a “complete introvert”. Being in the Marines opened doors and opportunities for him that would not have been available without being in the service.

In 2008, at just twenty years old, he served an eight month deployment in Dgibout, Africa. This country is filled with malnourished, uneducated and poverty-stricken children. Marine troops were sent there to help supply the country with the essential tools they needed to survive.

Some of these included clean water, vaccinated camels, pens and pencils for school and crayons for the children. Nguyen said that some of those children had never even seen a full sheet a clean white paper before.

“The whole village shared just two wells. The water was so green and thick it’s hard to imagine someone could actually live off of something like that,” Nguyen said.

His deployment helped him define his true calling in life. From that moment on Nguyen knew he was here to make a difference. He now felt that it was his personal duty to give as much effort possible to not let people live the way he saw them living in Africa.

“I want to use my talents and experiences to help under privileged children, they need it,” he said. “Growing up, people always want to feel a sense of self-worth. I felt that in Africa.”

That is exactly what he did. In September of 2010 Nguyen came up with the idea to create an organization to benefit underprivileged children locally and globally. He became the founder of The Global Mindset Group. The goal of this group is to provide quality developmental programming for the struggling children across the globe.

Every other Sunday afternoon members of GMG join together at Emerald Isle Park and spend time with these children. They spend their time teaching the children how to play tennis, practice yoga, and even how to read.

Every course that they provide is completely free of charge. This is a non-profitable organization and relies on volunteers to help change these children’s lives.

“We do everything for free. Just seeing the children laugh and smile is rewarding enough,” he said.

In just three months of the beginning of GMG they have expanded their program to Orange County, Riverside and Long Beach.

GMG is receiving recognition from some pretty well known sponsors. Mike Cedeno, the head Animator for Disney and Mathew Shell of the Board of Directors for the Grammy Awards help sponsor their program.

“At first we just wanted to play tennis with the kids. Now we’ve branched out and have over 300 members, from all over trying to help us out, it’s amazing,” Nguyen said.

Right now the main focus of the group is to continue helping children locally. They want to continue offering a secure learning environment for low-income children.

The long term goal of GMG is to branch globally. In order to accomplish this they are working hard to earn Pepsi Grants and other social funding that is offered. At the moment the group is funded by GCC for supplies, events and campus project support.

GMG also does what it can to act as a relief programs. Volunteers were able to gain $400 for the children of Japan. Donations were accepted when they set a booth up on GCC’s campus. They asked people to help design T-shirts that they could print for the orphanages of the tsunami. Every T-shirt cost $10 and everything was donated to relief efforts.

“We felt bad asking people for the donations because we know everyone is broke, but some people need it more than others. People have to put their priorities in order. Instead of spending ten dollars at the mall, give a child a shirt,” Nguyen said.

In a way Nguyen can relate to these children of Africa and in his local community. His upbringing was full of challenges also. His parents moved to America from Vietnam with the hopes of starting a new and fulfilling life for their family. When they arrived here they had to begin with nothing.

“We came to America with $100 in our pockets, to Ohio, in the winter, it was horrible,” he said. “Have you ever seen an Asian guy in flip-flops and shorts in the snow?”

Since then his father has worked determinedly to give his family a better life. Working the nightshift at Burger King for $6.00 an hour, scraping oil off pans, anything he could do to support his family. In 2009 his father was able to open his own nail salon in Bakersfield, Calif.

Nguyen grew up watching all of this hard work, and believes that this is what fueled his determination to make life better for other people around him.

His family’s high standards made him the man he is today. In order to repay his parents, Nguyen’s long-term goal is to support their retirement. He doesn’t want to see his parents working a minimum wage job anymore. He wants them to rest and to stop competing with the economy.

Other than his parents, Nguyen also finds encouragement on campus. Joseph Puglia, a GCC counselor, a Marine and advisor of GMG, is someone who he has frequently visited. He says that it is important for veterans to stick together and not be shy about what they have gone through.

“Most likely, a veteran won’t say he is a veteran; the majority of them would prefer to stay low-key,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen suggests that any service man or woman who is struggling with the adjustment back to normal life join a club on campus. He said to be around average civilians will help ease them back into an everyday schedule. Being in clubs has helped him relax, socialize, work hard and play hard.

He discovered that being a part of something on campus allowed him to explore and find out what his true talents were. He was able to be a part of something bigger than himself. He set new goals and met friends that have changed his life permanently.

The President of GMG, George Skriabin, has had the opportunity to become close with Khoa on a personal and professional level. He acknowledges that without Khoa’s support he may not have seen the potential in himself that Khoa was able to recognize.

“I guess it takes a true leader to see potential in others and help them build up their confidence to further pursure those strengths and passions that they have, but are unaware of how to unleash them,” Skriabin said.

Skriabin said Khoa’s involvement with GMG is one of the main reasons for the success of their marketing. He also played an important role in choosing the cabinet members of the group. He said that every day the image of GMG is becoming clearer to people who pass by and ask what they do, which is very important to the group.

“Khoa is the type of guy that gives everyone around him inspiration,” Ricky Salazar, a member of GMG said. “He turned out to be a really good friend. I’m glad I met him.”

Ricky Salazar is Nguyen’s friend and co-worker. He participates with the Global Mind Set group every other Sunday and teaches the children martial arts.

“Everyone shares a path. Thousands of people are doing exactly what you’re doing right now. So, why not do something to separate yourself from them?” he said. “How many people can say that they wrote their own story?”