Suely Saro, a daughter of immigrants who fled the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s, will be sworn on Dec. 15 as the first Cambodian American council member in Long Beach, reports the Los Angeles Times.
A born leader: Prior to her election in November to represent Council District 6, the 40-year-old councilwoman has long served as a community leader in Long Beach, home to thousands of other Cambodia refugees, her bio revealed.
- Her parents, who fled their country during the tyrannical Khmer Rouge rule, gave birth to her in a Thailand refugee camp. Saro’s family first settled in Los Angeles before she eventually moved to Long Beach.
- She is the first in her family to graduate from college and holds a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz; from California State University, Long Beach a master’s degree in Public Administration; and from the University of La Verne a doctorate in Education (Ed.D) and Organizational Leadership.
- Her path to higher education came from her own frustrations and challenges of not feeling pushed or supported in school while growing up.
- She became the first Cambodian executive director of Khmer Girls in Action, an organization devoted to developing young Cambodian leaders. Saro currently chairs the Citizen Police Complaint Commission and serves as a faculty member in Cal State L.A.’s School of Social Work.
- Saro has also worked with the Health Access Project at Asian Americans Advancing Justice and co-founded the Women for Women Foundation, a non-profit based in Cambodia.
Her biggest role yet: Being the first Cambodian American elected to office in California, Saro aims to use her platform to continue fighting injustices.
- She plans to push through with her commitment to improve the quality of life in the Sixth District, where many low-income families from the Black, Latino and Cambodian communities reside, according to Long Beach Post.
- “I’m going to fight to revitalize our approach and bring badly-needed services and relief to our neighborhoods,” she was quoted as saying.
- Saro is the first council member of Cambodian descent, representing one of the largest Cambodian communities — estimated between 50,000 and 70,000 Cambodians.
- “I feel like I’m giving a voice to a community who has not felt like they’ve been heard and represented in an official capacity,” she said.
- In her first few weeks, Saro plans to start organizing neighborhood cleanups and fix lighting in streets and alleyways, the Press-Telegram reported. She also intends to conduct round table meetings for the community to learn their challenges firsthand and suggestions for solutions.
Feature image via Suely Saro