Rilee Louangphakdy, 25
Marketing and event manager, Leadership Snohomish County
When Rilee Louangphakdy was 14, his 24-year-old cousin, “a big brother” to him, died suddenly.
Louangphakdy began a downward spiral.
Instead of doing schoolwork, he played video games and scrolled aimlessly on social media.
One day, he stumbled on an online dictionary of obscure sorrows and 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 Louangphakdy to make an effort to connect with more people.
“We don’t always think about other people because we’re too focused on our own lives,” Louangphakdy said.
His quest offered him a new perspective and a fresh start. “I became more open-minded,” Louangphakdy said. “If we can understand that everyone has a story, we can connect and accomplish so much more.”
Then a high school freshman, Louangphakdy began to seek volunteer opportunities.
His first stop was the local YMCA Youth Development Center of Snohomish County. There he served as as a camp counselor for K-5 summer daycare camps.
At school, he became involved in Associated Student Body activities, which instilled a desire and passion for community service, he said.
Louangphakdy related his experience in a TED talk during a 2016 TEDxSnoIsleLibraries event in Edmonds.
In his senior year, Louangphakdy was awarded a varsity letter for community service for over 140 hours served.
“To this day, I giggle at the thought that my father was a varsity athlete and captain of various sports teams in high school, while I was a varsity athlete in community service,” Louangphakdy said.
In 2019, he earned bachelor’s degree in integrated strategic communication from Washington State University Everett.
Louangphakdy is the marketing and event manager for Leadership Snohomish County, a nonprofit that offers leadership training. Later this month, he embarks on a new job as communications specialist with the City of Marysville.
Louangphakdy is a a board member for Leadership Launch and has donated hours of editing and social media guidance to the group, an Emerging Leaders nominator wrote.
He is a mentor for the UNCF Portfolio Project that aims to increase the number of minority and low-income college and scholarship applicants. He also serves on the planning committee for Engage Everett, which offers monthly networking events for professionals and creatives.
“Ever since high school, I have trained myself to extract as much experience, skills, wisdom, insights and perspective from any opportunity as possible,” Louangphakdy said.