EAST TAWAS – A new program to gain a youth perspective has been rolled out by the Tawas Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) Board of Directors. They have found the ideal person to join their team, with the addition of Ammy Nguyen, 17, East Tawas.
A senior at Tawas Area High School (TAHS), Nguyen was recently selected as the first Youth Engagement member for the board, showing fellow chamber representatives that she has plenty to bring to the table.
To say that she is well-rounded would be an understatement, with Nguyen holding such titles at TAHS as cross country runner, Knowledge Bowl Team member, Youth Advisory Council representative and co-president of the drama club.
“I am the volunteer coordinator this year for NHS, and I also run the committee right now working on Project Clean, to help clean the community,” she added.
On top of this, she also works at Twin City Spa in East Tawas, which is owned by her parents, Tommy and Kim Nguyen.
“Do you sleep?” joked TACC Managing Director Penny Payea, who joined Nguyen on her interview for this story at the chamber building in East Tawas, on Oct. 3.
“I figure it out,” Nguyen said of accommodating her numerous duties.
“I have off-seasons where there’s less stuff, and then it starts right back up again,” she added.
As noted on the TACC website, the mission of the chamber is to encourage and support economic development and success by creating collaborations to grow membership, support tourism and foster opportunities that will ensure a vibrant community for those who work, live and play in the area.
TACC is striving to leave a better place for the next generation, and the board believes that the best way to ensure success is to get the next generation involved.
The TACC Youth Engagement Program is designed to be that experience. The selected high school participants will be those who share an interest in promoting the community and business prosperity through advocacy and network development.
“I’m excited about it,” Payea said of the new offering.
The youth participant is not a voting member of the board, but Payea says it’s more about the experience they will gain.
“I think the kids will find it really valuable,” she remarked, adding that it gives them an opportunity to get to know the business people and create some relationships, understand how businesses communicate and learn about how the community and businesses work together.
“And it gives us an opportunity to get a new perspective, as far as hearing from them,” Payea went on.
For example, she said that Nguyen gave a presentation to the TAHS junior class about the program, since the goal is to have a junior member on board, as well.
According to Payea, as the program gains more traction, the idea is for the senior to mentor the junior as he or she prepares to step into the leadership role during their second year with TACC. That person will then do the same thing for the next junior who comes in, and so on.
At press time, Payea said the chamber will be accepting junior member applications for the next two or three weeks.
Those who may apply are students attending TAHS, Alternative Education Academy or who are home-schooled, and are interested in helping their community. Applications can be submitted via the TACC website at tawas.com.
According to the website, among other items, the Youth Engagement Program will provide a voice for young people who will be affected by the board’s decisions; bring a deeper understanding of youth-related issues; help explain the chamber’s policies, programs, mission and more to other youth; allow participants to assist in developing project ideas; and allow students to learn about municipal governments and community-based organizations, with an emphasis on collaboration.
Participants will also find out how boards and organizations work, as well as learn the meeting, facilitation, listening, diplomatic and other skills necessary to be engaged and active in the community.
Members are also encouraged to attend the TACC Board meetings, held at the chamber building on the second Wednesday of every month.
Nguyen, who applied for the program in August, took part in her first board meeting as a TACC representative in September.
She said the gathering involved introductions between herself and fellow board members, a lot of discussion on the events and activities hosted by TACC, talks on the financial aspects involved, information on the chamber’s policies and more.
Nguyen said she first learned of the program through her school and, while she was already involved in TAHS and the community as it was, this was a chance for her to take on more of a leadership position.
“So I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to just get to know people in the community, and maybe learn about the nuances of how some things are run,” she shared.
Nguyen will be putting in a lot of work with the Youth Engagement effort – in addition to an already packed schedule – but there are also a number of perks to be realized with the title.
For one, she will be able to fuel her passion for giving back.
Nguyen plans to attend medical school, and she notes that it can be easy for students to view community involvement as simply another box to check off for prospective colleges and universities. “But I found that I actually quite enjoyed it, being involved, so I picked up more of it as I went along.”
She said she is also trying to push her two siblings – seventh grade twins Audrey and Ashley – to understand the importance of community involvement and awareness so that they, too, can have an impact.
Another benefit of the TACC Youth Engagement Program, according to the organization, is that it will give students an opportunity for references from community leaders/business owners.
Payea added that Huron Community Bank is awarding a $500 scholarship toward continued education for the seniors who have completed their requirements with the youth program.
As for what she enjoys about the community, “I like the ability to walk down to the movie theater and know the people at concession by name,” Nguyen commented. “Or go to Suzie Brews [Coffee Shop] and know that Suzie’s going to be there,” she said of the East Tawas establishment.
When Nguyen isn’t tied up with her other commitments, she enjoys frequenting the coffee shop with her friends, or hanging out with them at the beach.
Her spare time is also occupied by winter skiing trips with her family, good reads as part of the book club she is involved in and volunteering at Witz End in East Tawas. She assisted the performing arts facility by working with the children on one of their productions this summer. “That was fun; a lot of work, but fun,” Nguyen recalls.