Rilee Louangphakdy, marketing and event manager for Leadership Snohomish County. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rilee Louangphakdy, marketing and event manager for Leadership Snohomish County. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rilee Louangphakdy: An obscure word inspired him to connect

In school, this marketing manager was on a downward spiral until he filled his life with volunteer activity.

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 27.

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.

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

The annual Emerging Leaders award by The Herald Business Journal seeks to highlight and celebrate people who are doing good work in Snohomish County. This year’s partners in the award are HeraldMedia, Leadership Snohomish County, Leadership Launch and Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Co-sponsors are Gaffney Construction, Inflection Wealth Management and the Port of Everett.

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