(December 2019) – Linh Dang remembers leaving her birth country during the fall of Vietnam. “We didn’t know where we were going — but we hoped it would be a country where education would be an opportunity that everyone had. Education was always the answer.”
A police officer at the time, Dang’s father was faced with the need to find refuge for his family as well as himself. They encouraged him to go to Saigon, where the rest of the family would meet him when they could. But he didn’t. He waited for them for days, unable to reconcile within himself the idea of leaving his wife, eight children and five grandchildren behind.
When they were finally united and set out on their journey, he was determined to keep them together. Once in the United States, the family set up a sewing business out of their home, where Linh Dang and her siblings would help each day before homework. “It did teach me that life is not just about yourself,” she said. “The work I did then wasn’t about me, but about the wellbeing of the people around me. It taught me responsibility, the value of working hard, and how education can transform your circumstances.”
When she entered the corporate world years later, she was happy to not only put her analytical talents to use but to combine her two passions of education and finance. She was set on empowering education through her industry — and empowering her industry through education.
We can all be leaders in economic development, no matter the industry.
In 2003, she was drawn to Addition Financial, at the time called Central Florida Educators (CFE) Federal Credit Union, for exactly that reason. “I took a step back in title but a leap forward in opportunity,” she said. She chose the credit union for its reputation in the community and its strong support of learning. Dang now serves as chief development officer.
As the official financial institution for the University of Central Florida (UCF), Seminole State College and Valencia College, Addition had already done remarkable work in the education sector, including establishing its own Joseph A. Melbourne scholarship program.
For more than 15 years, Addition Financial and Dang have been working both inside and outside the credit union to encourage financial literacy for all, including offering summer and ongoing internship programs geared toward its high school and college partners. Dang oversaw the inception of high school programs that allow students to operate their own Addition Financial branches, conducting real transactions for other students, faculty and staff.
“As the students transition into the following school year, you start to see how it builds their confidence,” Dang said. “They progress to leadership roles or paid student internships. This opportunity to give back to education in abundance is really heartwarming.”
To Dang, these programs open a door to so much more. “It’s so important that the next generation be confident in managing their own money,” she said. “Low financial literacy has a direct correlation to negative credit behaviors — that affects credit cards, loans, even the ability to obtain credit. The first step is knowledge so that as they move into different life stages, they can attain their American dream.”
In the past year, she has been integral in CFE’s transition to Addition Financial, a move that expands the institution’s regional opportunities and its client base. Dang had a hand in coordinating everything from public relations communications to rebranding material across the state.
“For me, it’s about building an environment in which everyone is able to obtain their hopes, dreams, and aspirations,” Dang said of her work with both Addition and organizations including the Global Women’s Leadership Network and Junior Achievement. “It’s a leader’s responsibility to constantly improve the human condition and create opportunities for a better society to live, learn, work and worship in. We can all be leaders in economic development, no matter the industry.”