In 1975, the Fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War marks the beginning of a mass exodus of over a million refugees in search for freedom and democracy.

The devastating effects of the Vietnam War led to harsh living conditions and political persecution for a vast amount of Vietnamese citizens. As a result, many chose to flee the country as political refugees. However, the arrival to America prompted great difficulties in adapting to the new culture and surviving in a different world.

Although a small number of students initially enrolled in college, those who did experienced large problems without a support group sympathetic to the plight of Vietnamese Americans.

Thirty-one years later, VSU seeks to increase awareness of the Vietnamese history and culture. Members express their artistic talents through events such as the Vietnamese Culture Night, Tet Festival, and Cafe Am. These student productions allow members to discover their cultural identity and engage with the community simultaneously. Through the Black April Commemoration, which signifies the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, students learn about their familyís struggle to America and its political impact on the world.

VSUís role as a community service organization has evolved from a refugee supports program to include the broader community. The Higher Opportunity Program for Education (HOPE) serves at-risk students in Westminster High School in Orange County, Chinatown Library, and San Gabriel High School in Los Angeles. VSU prioritizes academics and retention through the Southeast Asian Campus Learning Education and Retention project (SEA CLEAR) by offering academic support services, holistic development, and community consciousness, which address issues and struggles culturally relevant to the refugee experience for the Vietnamese and greater Southeast Asian community. Also, as students with access to elite institutions such as UCLA, we find ways to use our campus resources to respond and contribute to the communityís educational needs through the HOPE High School Conference and Vietnamese Admit Weekend.

VSU also encourages student activism to challenge issues that affect the Vietnamese American community, such as hate crimes, sweatshop labor, immigrant rights, human rights and more concretely, through its stances on affirmative action and deportation. Only a collective effort can overcome such obstacles.

VSU provides an environment conducive to creating social support networks for members to excel in college and to grow as individuals and student leaders. It is our hope that these relationships and experiences enrich college life for our students and us that will extend beyond graduation.

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