VCSA creates support network for club members

Vietnamese Catholic Student Association club members having fun during a team-bonding round of musical chairs in OCC’s Student Union on April 10. 

The Vietnamese Catholic Student Association was first established in 1998 at Cal State Fullerton. When first forming a chapter at Orange Coast College, the VCSA carried out its traditions of creating student leadership, preserving the Catholic faith and Vietnamese culture and giving back to the community.

Although the words “Vietnamese” and “Catholic” are a part of the club’s name, the VCSA welcomes all students in forming friendships, social and leadership skills and providing a community of support in various studies.

“Not all of our members are Catholic,” Extended Opportunity Programs and Services counselor and VCSA club adviser Michelle Ngo said. 

The VCSA gradually developed into a network of students helping each other navigate the transitions of life at a community college, with new members coming straight out of high school and students recently immigrating to the U.S.

“Many club members are first generation [students],” Ngo said. “It’s important that they have a sense of community here on campus, have an opportunity to bond with other students and take advantage of the resources available at OCC.”

“I’ve made a lot of friends through VCSA, and it helped me with self-development,” OCC alumni Huan Phan said. “Before I joined, I was really shy in front of people and having to speak. I still get nervous, but I became more comfortable.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions with in-person meetings, the club was able to regularly meet over Zoom with a rate of 30 members participating per meeting. Navigating the club’s return on campus has been no easy task from getting more students interested during the OCC Pirate Involvement Fair to meeting on a bi-weekly basis with students’ conflicting schedules. 

“It's taught me a lot about leadership and team management. But we have a lot of fun,” OCC Hospitality Management major Thy Dang said when talking about how she became VCSA president in fall 2022 when campus reopened after the pandemic and the club was finally able to hold meetings in person.

The VCSA has been involved in Inter-Club Council events where they participated and earned 2nd place winner of the ICC Recycling Competition in 2021, winning Outstanding Participation in Fall 2022 ICC events and Service and Leadership Event of the Year 2022, all of which have offered a great opportunity to get to know students on campus.

When club members joined VCSA, many of them were timid and unaware of the level of involvement the club had on campus. Joining the club allowed them to build self-confidence, to have a sense of belonging and to create purpose when planning their academic journey.

VCSA’s work also demonstrates the importance of school involvement with professional career aspirations. 

“I didn’t know what path of career I would like to choose,” VCSA officer and OCC Business Administration major Thanh Tran said. “Then I met the club members and I really appreciate them. It gave me a chance to express myself when I had some questions. They helped me with my situation and I acknowledged what I would want to do in the future.”

On March 20, VCSA hosted an instructive session with OCC’s Tutorial Services Specialist Jeanette Grimm, during which she was able to share with club members the services and resources at the OCC’s Student Success Center. Grimm is one of many guest speakers that the club has invited to discuss topics involving campus resources, internships, transfer requirements, connecting with peers and networking with OCC faculty. 

“I met a lot of people that helped me know more about my major and what I need to do to transfer next year,” OCC Studio Art major Halina Vo said. 

Former VCSA members, who are now working at Amazon, KPMG and Walmart, have returned to share insights about their internship experiences to encourage members in achieving their goals, providing a continual supportive network to VCSA members at OCC.

From team bonding with arts and crafts sessions to discussions on how club members can set themselves up for academic achievements, VCSA is one of the many clubs on campus that want their club members to feel that they are a part of the OCC community at large.

OCC’s VCSA meets every other Monday either held in the Student Union or over Zoom with meeting information updates on their Instagram page for those who want to join, as the club actively discusses new ideas on building relationships between students, faculty and alumni.

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