I’m Kim-Cuong Than, or as my friends call me Kim. I started as a Prevention Specialist for Mosaic Family Services’ Multicultural Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program in 2005 and quickly became the Program Director after my predecessor left in 2006. I work in schools and different communities in Dallas County to reduce and eliminate youth substance abuse and violence. I graduated from the University of North Texas in Denton with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, with a concentration in Asian history and politics and a French minor. I speak English and conversational Vietnamese. I can read French and learned some Spanish to give greetings, order food, and follow directions. My dream was to work for the U.S. Department of State as a diplomat, but my calling was in community-based non-profit work. I received my Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS) and International Certified Prevention Specialist (ICPS) when the prevention field was just starting to become more professionalized.
A Unique Family Refugee Story
I was born and raised as a first-generation Vietnamese American, but I really did not understand what that really meant until I met my oldest sister when I was 3 or 4 years old. I clearly remember grasping my crying mother’s hand as we walked on the tarmac at the airport to greet a parked plane, passing a cordoned area of photographers and media members. The door came down and several people stepped off the plane, including a diminutive, skinny pubescent girl holding a big plastic bag. My mother dropped my hands immediately when she saw her. I grasped her skirt instead so that she could continue to cry and hug my oldest sister, who was left behind in Vietnam for 10 years. My aunt had taken my sister for a visit with our grandparents in another town at the time when my parents had the most difficult choice to leave Saigon. After much fear and deliberation, my parents and then 2-year-old brother left Saigon undercover to become one of the several desperate families that left the communist regime. They would be one of the few hundreds of fortunate boat people who were picked up and sent to one of several refugee camps when they left Vietnam in 1975. When relatives and my older sister were caught trying to follow my parents and brother, they were sent to labor and re-education camps. No one knew that it would take 10 years for a reunion.
A Vietnamese-American Experience
Growing up, we were always a handful of Asian families in whatever community we lived in. It was a huge adjustment for my oldest sister, acclimating to a vastly strange and different culture, but for me, my oldest sister was a fount of stories of a Vietnam I had never visited and of the vast number of relatives I did not know we had. I knew we had a privileged life living in America, with all the opportunities afforded us. I received a distinct Vietnamese upbringing at home and church and an American experience at school and out in public. As we grew up, my siblings and I adopted some American traditions like making and perfecting a truly American Thanksgiving meal. (That first turkey was so dry, even dousing it in gravy was not going to help!) My family and I had our share of experiencing racial, religious, and socioeconomic discrimination, but being open to all diverse cultures make it easier for me to accept and embrace people, no matter where they are in their life and to utilize whatever gifts God has given me to bring blessings to others.
What I Bring to the Table
I am detail-oriented, organized (for the most part), and fairly resourceful. I specialize in coordinating regional efforts through coalition work, serving in leadership capacities, and public outreach efforts. I love working with community partners like law enforcement, other non-profits, and school staff to bring quality programming and public awareness, and education. One of my most favorite activities is to work with our local law enforcement to collect unused or expired prescription drugs through the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Prescription Take Back Program. Not only are we working to divert these prescription drugs from misuse, but it is a chance for me to meet community members and to share more resources.
Some of the things I am currently working on are
Developing and maintaining relationships with our elected officials to change policies or laws that would effectively limit substance abuse and violence;
Finding and developing vaping cessation programs in North Texas;
Educating community members on the link of childhood trauma and toxic stress to substance abuse and violence;
Providing resources for individuals and families coping with stress.
I love spending time with my immediate and extended family, especially my two energetic toddlers who bring me much joy and levity every day. My daily nature walks with them are so enjoyable that our neighbor and her dogs join us. I enjoy group games, foreign film and television series, premium chocolates, hosting parties (although the pandemic has limited this activity), all manners of cooking, and especially trying out all sorts of cuisines. I try to develop a green thumb by attempting to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs annually. It is a hit or miss, but if you ever need aloes, I’m your provider.