Dedicated to helping incarcerated youth find a better path

Ton Nguyen also encourages young people of all backgrounds to volunteer their time.

Ton Nguyen is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ton Nguyen is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

This is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award, which seeks to highlight and celebrate people who are doing good work in Snohomish County. The winner will be named at an event on April 11. Meet the other finalists.

Name: Ton Nguyen

Age: 30

Profession: Youth Initiatives Manager, Workforce Snohomish

Ton Nguyen doesn’t like to miss his Saturday visits to Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett.

It’s his day off, but he arrives at 7 a.m. to check in with the juvenile inmates.

“I spend time with them talking about life and the dreams that they have,” said Nguyen, Youth Initiatives Manager at Workforce Snohomish.

“I also spend a lot of time playing basketball with them, laughing with them, and letting them know there is someone who cares,” he said.

To his great disappointment, Nguyen recently had to cancel his visits. But he had a good reason: In January, Nguyen was hit by a car in a parking lot.

It’s taken time to heal.

“I’ve never been injured like this,” said Nguyen, who is recovering from a concussion. “I’ve had to learn that it’s OK not being OK.”

Nguyen’s challenges were many, a nominator said: “In his youth he grew up alongside gangs on Casino Road but didn’t let that stop him from dreaming big, graduating from college and dedicating his professional and personal life to supporting youth in our community.”

One of Nguyen’s first opportunities to assist others occurred when he visited Haiti on a church mission.

“I learned what it meant to serve and serve completely,” said Nguyen, who graduated from Edmonds Community College with an associate’s degree. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Washington Bothell.

Nguyen has been president of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement since 2013.

The youth group is affiliated with Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishes in Everett.

Said a nominator: “Through this youth group, Ton has been able to motivate students of all ages to volunteer their own time and give back to the community locally and globally. An example of this includes building and establishing a partnership with the Global Peace Foundation and city of Lynnwood to clean up parks, pave gravel roads, and make posters for local elementary schools. At the global scale, Ton has led youth and young adults on mission trips to Haiti to build schools and homes, deliver toys and hygiene items. He has led countless benefit dinners and events to raise money for the countries of Haiti, Vietnam, and even hosted a volleyball tournament for Nepal when they were hit with an earthquake.”

Nguyen also is involved with Housing Hope, Mercy Watch, Cocoon House, and the Union Gospel Mission among other groups.

Nguyen describes himself as fortunate: “Growing up, my family and I were always one paycheck away from being on the streets. I saw how hard my parents had to work and how loyal they were to making sure that we got what we needed regardless of how much they had to work,” Nguyen said.

He’s resumed his Saturday visits to the Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

That includes spending time with “four young people you’ve probably read about in the newspaper,” he said.

“I’ve seen them grow from hating the world to talking about what they want to do with their lives after they serve their sentence,” he said.

In the community they were part of, he said, “they weren’t meant to thrive.”

“I want them to know — I want every kid that comes out of Denney to know — there are places they can go for help.”

Janice Podsada;; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing inks deal for up to 300 737 Max planes with Ryanair

At Boeing’s list prices, the deal would be worth more than $40 billion if Ryanair exercises all the options.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Four recognized for building a better community

Economic Alliance of Snohomish County hosts annual awards

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: Pandemic recovery aid and workforce support program

Snohomish County launches small business COVID recovery program, and is now accepting NOFA grant applications.

Elson S. Floyd Award winner NAACP President Janice Greene. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Janice Greene: An advocate for supplier diversity and BIPOC opportunities

The president of the Snohomish County NAACP since 2008 is the recipient of this year’s Elson S. Floyd Award.

Emerging Leader Rilee Louangphakdy (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Rilee Louangphakdy: A community volunteer since his teens

Volunteering lifted his spirits and connected him with others after the death of a family member.

Emerging Leader Alex McGinty (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Alex Zitnik-McGinty: Find a group you like and volunteer!

Her volunteer activities cover the spectrum. Fitting in “service work is important as we grow.”

Opportunity Lives Here award winner Workforce Snohomish and director, Joy Emory. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Workforce Snohomish receives Opportunity Lives Here Award

Workforce offers a suite of free services to job seekers and businesses in Snohomish County.

Henry M. Jackson award winner Tom Lane. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Tom Lane: An advocate for small and local businesses

The CEO of Dwayne Lane’s Auto Family is a recipient of this year’s Henry M. Jackson Award.

John M. Fluke Sr. award winner Dom Amor. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dom Amor: Working behind the scenes to improve the region

Dom Amor is the recipient of this year’s John M. Fluke Sr. Award

Dr. David Kirtley at the new Helion headquarters in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022  (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett nuclear fusion energy company nets first customer: Microsoft

The Everett company, on a quest to produce carbon-free electricity, agreed to provide power to the software giant by 2028.

Hunter Mattson, center, is guided by Blake Horton, right, on a virtual welding simulation during a trade fair at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, Washington, on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. High school kids learned about various trades at the event. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Trade fair gives Snohomish County kids glimpse of college alternatives

Showcasing the trades, the Trade Up event in Monroe drew hundreds of high school students from east Snohomish County.

A Tesla Model Y Long Range is displayed on Feb. 24, 2021, at the Tesla Gallery in Troy, Mich.  Opinion polls show that most Americans would consider an EV if it cost less, if more charging stations existed and if a wider variety of models were available. The models are coming, but they may roll out ahead of consumer tastes. And that could spell problems for the U.S. auto industry, which is sinking billions into the new technology with dozens of new vehicles on the way.  (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Tesla leases space at Marysville business park

Elon Musk’s electric car company reportedly leased a massive new building at the Cascade Business Park.