her sisters were forced to leave college and return
home. The government evicted her family from
their home. Her mother moved the family in
with their grandparents until she could rebuild
a home for them – singlehandedly.
“She inspires me a lot,” said Chi of her mother,
who kept the family together. “When I got to
the U.S., I knew I had to have a career and not
depend on anyone. It was a lesson I learned from
my mom. She’s an incredible person.”
Chi wanted most of all to go to school and pursue a career that would provide independence,
but her dreams of any higher education were
dashed after April 30, 1975. “The Vietnam
(communist) government did not treat us very
well,” she said. “We were discriminated against
due to political family status.”
“I wanted to go to college so bad – I studied very
hard in high school. Many, many people never get
in the door (of a college) because of their family’s
status, like mine. I’ll show them,” she said, recalling
how she’d read any book she could get her hands
on, often by oil lamp because electricity was limited
by the communist government to certain hours.
Ultimately, she succeeded in getting accepted
to a university in Ho Chi Minh City in 1977.
She was only one of three female students in her
mechanical engineering department.
Meanwhile, she was pursuing every avenue to
move to the United States and continued to focus
on the goal of an education, career and independence. That’s why she boarded that overcrowded
boat with her brother. She didn’t feel like she had
a lot of choices.
When she came to America, she moved in with
her sister’s family in Texas. Chi took care of her
sister’s children during the day and went to school
at night. When her sister moved to Wichita, Chi
went, too. “I was very grateful for their support.”
Chi graduated cum laude from Wichita State
University in 1996 with a degree in mechani-
cal engineering. That’s also where she met her
husband, Jeff Aga, who was an aerodynamic
engineering student. They married in 1995.
They moved to the Puget Sound after graduating. They both went to work at The Boeing
Company as engineers and are both SPEEA
members. Jeff even served as a Council Rep.
Both walked the SPEEA picket line, at times
with a baby stroller, in 2000.
She learned about unions when she lived in
Vietnam because she read a lot. “I knew workers need unions. They protect workers’ rights.”
Being part of SPEEA’s Diversity Committee, she
can learn from others’ journeys. “Listening to their
stories,” she said about attending the NAACP conference earlier this year, for example, “inspired me.”
Why is diversity important to Chi? “Diversity
means respect for and appreciation of differences
in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability,
sexual orientation, education and religion. The
power of diversity is unleashed when we respect
and value differences. Everyone needs everyone’s
contribution. I will not let anyone hold me back.”
Join the Diversity Committee
The SPEEA Diversity Committee meets the second Wednesday of the month at 4 p.m. See the
online calendars for RSVP details.
Editor’s Note – Chi Aga, a member of the
SPEEA Diversity Committee, shared her story
when she was interviewed for attending the
NAACP national conference earlier this year.
Chi was inspired by the speakers at the conference, including Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore state’s
attorney. One of Mosby’s quotes struck a chord:
“Don’t let your beginning define where you end.”
Engineer escaped from Vietnam
continued from page 1
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