Bryan Chau was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley and was part of AYC programs as a youth. Growing up as an economically disadvantaged minority in a combative environment, he met various challenges, but through AYC’s Youth Development programs, those challenges became lessons and pillars by which he lives his life now. These pillars have led Bryan to graduate from Gabrielino High School with numerous extracurricular accolades and graduate from Cal State Long Beach with dual degrees in Finance and Human Resources. With a strong gratitude to AYC for developing him during adolescence and a devoted passion for helping youth, he has come full circle in joining the AYC’s Board of Directors in 2016.
Bryan is currently the Vice President of Business Operations at Acceler8Networks, an infrastructure-based IT consulting firm, where he develops and maintains best-in-class operational practices, including planning, budgeting, process and procedures, personnel management, and technology solutions. Prior to that, he worked for a Fortune 500 staffing firm with international prominence and won their prestigious President’s Club Award two years in a row, ranking #20 & #17 globally.
Bryan has a true passion for empowering our generation’s youth by helping them realize their full potential through mentorship and speaking on his own experiences as a challenged youth. He gets true gratification by helping our youth overcome hardships while turning them into successes.
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I actually grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in Monterey Park.
The Asian Youth Center (AYC) is a non-profit center started in 1989. It initially began with after-school programs and adult classes for the Asian immigrant population.
Now, it offers delinquency re-entry programs, outreach programs, and more community-based outreach programs.
It’s grown to serve the Antelope Valley and Inglewood areas, where we provide English, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish language translation.
When I was growing up in the San Gabriel Valley, I was picked on a lot because of my race.
There was tension between the Asian and Latino communities. I would get picked on, but I chose to fight back, which got me into trouble.
It got so bad that when I was in sixth grade, instead of going to lunch, I would go into my teacher’s classroom, sit there, and hang out instead of going outside and getting picked on and fighting.
It caused a lot of resentment. I was going to a new middle school outside of the district, and I thought this would be a good way to reinvent myself, and I said, “I’m never going to let this happen to me again.”
So I grew my hair out and began to emulate the tough guy gangster to make sure this never happened to me again.
I was very standoffish and got into a lot of fights. From there, I started meeting gang members, carrying weapons, and selling stuff I shouldn’t have been.
I wanted to embody the toughness, and I was so enraged from getting bullied that this was me.
My parents worked all day, seven days a week, so my grandparents were raising me.
I didn’t have a great dialogue with my parents. They made sure I was fed and taken care of and that my basic needs were met, but there wasn’t that deeper connection.
My dad spoke English decently, and my mom wasn’t great at it.
We spoke Vietnamese. My dad was born in China and moved to Vietnam; my mom is from Saigon. Interestingly, though, they didn’t meet until they were in the US.
Even before I had linked up with this group, I had always been interested in being the big dog and having the power. What I really wanted was to have backup in case I was victimized again.
The real pivotal moment was when I was expelled from middle school for selling drugs. This made me double down because they didn’t understand me, and it made me feel lost and like I didn’t belong in society.
What really crushed me was seeing my dad cry in front of the Board of Education at my expulsion hearing. This was the first time I had seen my dad cry as he told the board that I was a good kid.
As soon as I saw that, my whole world turned upside down, and it snapped me out of it because I didn’t want to see my parents cry over me again.
When I got home, I threw away all my baggy clothes and asked my mom to take me to the mall to buy some new clothes.
I went to a continuation school and started to turn things around. With my expulsion, I received 640 hours of community service and did all of it through the Asian Youth Center.
My sister is only a year younger than me, and she learned from my mistakes. She never did any of the crazy stuff that I did.
It’s good. We still live together, and I work hard to make sure that they are taken care of. I make sure their mortgage is paid, and all of their bills are covered.
I am a board member, and the board helps make decisions for the organization, but the main reason I wanted to be a part of the AYC was to talk to kids. I get to tell them that this isn’t the end of the world and there is more for them.
During Covid, we pivoted and did all of our programs online. One of the things that has been big for us is the emergency food program. Before the pandemic, we provided 1800 meals per month, but from March 2020 to March 2021, we served over 400,000 meals.
They can visit the AYC website: https://www.aycla.org/, and if they can’t donate monetarily, they can donate their time as tutors and mentors.
During Covid, I partnered up with my friend, Waldo Yan. He’s always had a passion for cooking, and during the pandemic, he created a lot of flavors based on the local food in the SGV.