Tony Vo is the Founder and Chair of the White Center 5K Walk & Run.
Tony Thai-Bao Vo was born in St. Louis, and grew up in Rainier Beach, High Point, and White Center. He is the son of Vietnamese refugees, who fled political persecution to come to the United States.
Tony has been involved in student activities since elementary school. His family wasn’t very familiar with the American education system, and his mom worked 70 hours a week to support them, so Tony enrolled himself in after-school programs to keep busy.
When he turned 16, Tony started working to pay for all of his own expenses, and saw education as the best way to rise above his circumstances.
At Evergreen, Tony immediately sought out opportunities. He took honors and AP classes, served as president of the Key Club and National Honor Society, and was the final editor of the Evergreen yearbook (before the transition to small schools). He also played tennis and ran cross-country.
Tony considers his older sister, Julie ’06, to be his biggest mentor. They are the children of refugees and immigrants, and were the first in their family to go to college. Looking back, Tony said that he wanted to do well to make his mom proud and thank her for all the sacrifices she’s made.
Tony attended the University of Washington, where he earned a double degree in Public Health and American Ethnic Studies. He worked two jobs in addition to being a full-time student, and continued his passion for being extremely involved.
Tony served as Director of the ASUW Asian Student Commission, overseeing 30+ student organizations. He founded the Asian Coalition for Equality, which focused on civic engagement and social justice. And Tony worked for three years as a Student Ambassador for the Office of Minority Affairs, where he advocated and organized for greater recruitment of Southeast Asian students (ie. Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Lao).
Tony enjoyed being involved, and realized that the work he was doing would benefit the people who came after him. Tony knew where he came from, and he didn’t want other students to face the same struggles as he did growing up as a first-generation, child of immigrants from a low-income community.
In 2013, Tony founded the White Center 5K Walk & Run to change the image of White Center. He wanted to host a large event that would bring the community together and create a positive image for White Center. He also wanted to help promote a healthy lifestyle, and support local small businesses. The first year, he was hoping for just 100 participants, but almost 400 people came out.
The event is now in its third year, and this year’s White Center 5K Walk & Run will take place on Saturday, March 28, 2015. The WC5K is a family-friendly fun run and is open to all ages, stroller-friendly, and pet-friendly. This year’s theme is “Superheroes” and participants are encouraged to dress up as their favorite superhero. Register here!
Tony currently works at South Seattle College overseeing all active clubs on campus. He is also working on state legislation focused on closing the opportunity gap. Tony plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Masters of Clinical Social Work or Masters of Education. He wants to study out-of-state in order to be exposed to different experiences and challenges, but plans to return to Seattle.
“Seattle’s home,” he said. “And it’s where I want to give back. I believe the greatest impact is realized when people from the community give back to their communities, because they understand the issues, and there’s already a sense of trust.”
- White Center 5K on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WhiteCenter5kWalkRun
- University of Washington – “EOP students named to 2013 Homecoming Court” – December 17, 2013
- The Daily – “Asian Coalition for Equality returns to campus” – May 6, 2013
- Highline Times – “White Center 5K sees nearly 400 people out to run the neighborhood” – February 17, 2013
- West Seattle Herald – “First Annual White Center 5K” – February 11, 2013