A Vietnamese-American, himself coming from a broken, low-income family, was honored by President Barack Obama for his innovative idea to help feed the homeless, a project that he started while still a student at UCLA.
Thach “Tak” Nguyen, 23, co-founder and CFO of Swipes for the Homeless, a non-profit organization that started as a student organization at UCLA, was honored as a “Champion of Change“ in a Mar. 15 ceremony at the White House that was captured on video. Tak is in the lower right corner of the screen.
The term “swipe” in the organization’s name refers to extra meals on meal plans (cards) that students may have skipped – i.e. not swipped – during the week, and accumulated over the quarter. In 2011, Tak and his friend Bryan Pezeshki had this idea to take all these unused swipes and trade in for meals for the homeless.
As noted in the Tak’s blog on the White House web site here, to date the organization has “collected over 20,000 meals…, with a record of 7,421 meals this past university quarter.”
In 2011, the duo took this program national and now has chapters at USC, UC Berkeley, Texas State University San Marcos, and even at the University of Paris in France.
Tak is still the organization’s CFO; he deals with the internal operations of the organization, with a specific focus on talent management and grooming future leaders. His professional experience ranges from business development to project management in Fortune 50 companies.
What’s even more amazing is, as Nguoi Viet Daily News found out, Tak himself came from a broken working class family. Both his parents are barbers and they divorced when he was 15. He started working through high school, getting money for college.
Even after he got admitted to UCLA, in his first year he worked the night shift, from 9pm to 3am, getting paid $9 an hour. In his second year, he asked his parents for $75 each per month; they give him $100 each. After four months, he found a job, and voluntarily paid back his parents.
Tak credited his work to the mere fact that he was admitted to UCLA. He told Nguoi Viet that in his admission essay he asked the school to overlook one bad year in his transcript when his parents divorced.
When he got in, Tak determined to prove to UCLA Admissions they were right in giving him the opportunity.
Tak with his parents at graduation.