Emerging Leader Rilee Louangphakdy (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

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.

This is one of 12 finalists for The Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders awards for 2022. The winner will be named at an event on April 13.

Rilee Louangphakdy, 26

Communication Specialist at the City of Marysville

Rilee Louangphakdy was 19 when he gave his first Ted Talk at a Sno-Isle Library event in Edmonds.

The topic?


At age 14, his 24-year-old cousin, who’d been like a big brother to him, suddenly died.

He coped with the loss by playing video games and scrolling aimlessly on social media. But the sadness was overwhelming.

Louangphakdy is a returning Emerging Leader candidate who made the Top 12 list last year, too.

Then an obscure word changed everything.

One day he stumbled onto an online dictionary and discovered the word sonder: “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness.”

The definition struck a chord, prompting him to turn his gaze toward others.

“If we can understand that everyone has a story, we can connect and accomplish so much more,” Louangphakdy said. “We don’t always think about other people because we’re too focused on our own lives.”

He began to seek volunteer opportunities.

His first stop was the YMCA Youth Development Center of Snohomish County, where he served as a camp counselor for K-5 summer daycare camps.

He became involved in Associated Student Body activities at Marysville Getchell High School.

When he graduated, Louangphakdy was awarded a varsity letter for community service.

In 2019, Louangphakdy earned bachelor’s degree in integrated strategic communication from Washington State University Everett.

Now, a communications specialist with the City of Marysville, he’s still giving back.

Louangphadky serves on the planning committee for Engage Everett, which offers monthly networking events for professionals. He acts as emcee at events and helps manage the nonprofit’s social media.

He is a counselor for Mission Peak Leadership Camp, a student leadership program offered by the Association of Washington Student Leaders.

He’s also a frequent panelist at Everett Community College events, including Journalism Day and the Students of Color Career Conference.

“Ever since high school, I have trained myself to extract as much experience, skills, wisdom, insights and perspective from any opportunity as possible,” he said.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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