Jasmine Kong, 20’s
(Just moved to Irvine, California)
Current Role: Student Athlete, Basketball Player at Westcliff University
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
My parents are both from Battambong, Cambodia. They escaped the Khmer genocide and arrived in the Khao I Dang refugee camps in Thailand. My mom was fortunate enough to take a bus. My dad crossed the border illegally. Blessed, they survived. Both my parents never new each other but they took a plane from Thailand to Hong Kong to Japan to Pennsylvania, and then to their last stop in California. Mom arrived 1982 of June. Dad arrived 1985 of May. They met at a Halloween party in their high school years in Oakland, California and then, they had me.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
It’s been hard living in America because it’s a culture adjustment and I actually grew up ashamed of being Cambodian. I was always embarrassed by what people thought of me. I grew up around two disabled people who humble me to this day, my uncle and aunt, who can’t walk. I was fluent in my language when I was young until I started going to school. I lost my language, culture, and traditions. I was always the only Cambodian at school and it was hard for me to relate or fit in with others. However, I have had the blessings of sports to occupy me and make new friends everyday. My parents can’t help me with school because they didn’t have the opportunity to finish. It’s also too hard for them and they live paycheck to paycheck. Through the hardships, we kept our faith.
Now that I am getting older, I love being Cambodian. I love being brown. I love my skin. I love our story as a people. I love reconnecting back to my roots to learn about the motherland. And I find my greatest support in my basketball journey within the Khmer American Community. I do it for them and for the young girls who want to play sports as well. The love has been overwhelming and the community pushes me to be the best role model and version of myself for the next. For instance, supporting 2 Khmerican Sisters and knowing they have my back and so many others just like them keeps me going in life and motivates me to give back to the community. Love from California.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Graduating high school. Learning about the world around me. Learning how to listen. Learning how to read. Winning the state championship for Diablo Valley College on March 17th, 2019 for Women’s Basketball. Reconnecting with my Khmer community and working to form the first women’s basketball national team since 1974.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
My parents have always taught me to be proud of who I am and to never change a thing. They have taught me to sacrifice and work hard. They have taught me to be humble and keep my faith and morals everywhere I go. They have taught me to walk through life with passion.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I used to when I was young but eventually lost the language because they stopped speaking khmer to me after going to school. I only speak Khmer with my grandparents.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
My advice is that you may not know what you want to do in life and that’s okay! However, believe in your dreams, get up, and turn it into action. Put yourself in good crowds of people because they will set the foundation of your life. Find mentors and don’t be scared to ask. Walk with your head up and confident of who you are. Never be ashamed. And learn everything about your culture.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
God, family, and basketball.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
My blog, as well as my podcast (Follow us on Instagram @asianallamerican).
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
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