Photo courtesy of VAYA
Photo courtesy of VAYA

A Vietnamese-American organization dedicated to uplifting youths in San Diego announced this week a new scholarship.

The Vietnamese-American Youth Alliance, an organization that hosts the annual Tet Festival, said they’ve collected enough funding to offer a $300 scholarship to a student.

But, the scholarship is not based on academics — it is based on community and civic engagement. One of VAYA’s missions is to promote youth leadership through community development and the scholarship reflects that, said VAYA board president Andy Nguyen.

“During the past 12 years, we have developed leaders in the community and those leaders have gone on to become leaders in their industries,” Nguyen said. “We feel this is a great way for them to give back to their community.”

Nguyen said the scholarship is funded by other members and former members of the youth group.

“The idea for the scholarship came from one of our board members, who said we needed a way former members can meaningfully give back to the organization,” he said. “The scholarship was brought up as an idea to help cultivate the next generation of civic leaders.”

The youth group has hosted a Tet festival that attracts tens-of-thousands of people each year. The event is organized by thousands of students and supported by many organizations and business leaders. Nguyen said that community involvement develops students into leaders.

“Leaders are developed through civic events and through mentoring,” he said. “We believe in letting our members see first-hand being involved in the community means.”

At the same time, it allows the young members — many of whom were born in the U.S. — to learn about their Vietnamese heritage.

“We want today’s Vietnamese youth to be proud of not just their heritage but also of their community,” Nguyen said. “We want them to be actively involved in their community and affect positive change.”

The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors living in San Diego who are at least 1/8 Vietnamese. There is an essay question that asks about the applicants’ community and civic engagement and their impact on the community. The deadline to apply for the scholarship is Feb. 1.

The winner of the scholarship will be announced at VAYA’s annual San Diego Tet Festival in Mira Mesa during the opening ceremony Saturday.

The San Diego Tet Festival dates and hours are Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.