Kendy Trinh: Building a Foundation

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Kendy Trinh, '18 Ethnic, Gender & Labor Studies, is a proud first-generation college graduate who has helped many other students build their own foundations for success.

Kendy Trinh wanted to get involved at UW Tacoma, but he wanted more than just that. He came ready to build a community. “I needed to find my foundation,” Trinh said.

Trinh is the first in his family to graduate from a university. He was born and raised in Seattle; his family emigrated from Vietnam around 1992. “My dad was an auto mechanic and my mom worked two jobs while pregnant with me and taking care of two other babies,” Trinh said. “They were raising my sisters and me and working two, three, four, five jobs to give us a comfortable life. They just didn't have the time to go to college.”

But going to college wasn’t a question for Trinh. His parents ingrained in him the importance of an education. Trinh also had his own motivations. “I saw college as a way to get involved with something, and that made me happy,” he said. “Seeing students succeed and transition just made me happy.”

While Trinh had no doubt that higher education was in his future, he wasn’t always sure where he’d go. He graduated from Highline Community College and was looking to transfer to a four-year university. "I came down here, and I knew people from my previous college who had gotten into leadership roles here at UW Tacoma,” Trinh said. “One reason I decided to come here was because I already knew people.”  

Trinh came to UW Tacoma in 2016 and decided to major in ethnic, gender and labor studies. He immediately immersed himself in its on-campus community, starting at orientation. He met with the Student Activities Board, where he now serves as the chair. He used his position to plan events that increase LGBTQIA+ representation on campus and student engagement, like UWT Pride Day this past May, the first such event at UW Tacoma. He was also involved in a first-gen success club, the predecessor to First Gen Fellows. “My first year in community college was bad because I didn’t get involved,” Trinh said. “But my second year I did, and that prepared me for my time here at UW Tacoma, which has given me the opportunity to further my leadership skills."

Trinh struggled to reflect on the growth he experienced while at UW Tacoma. But in doing so, he was chosen to be a part of the 2018 Husky 100. “Filling out the Husky 100 application really made me reflect on my growth as a person,” Trinh said. “Being born and raised in South Seattle, I questioned why, out of all places, my family moved there, because a lot of immigrant families were placed in one particular neighborhood. My classes here at UW Tacoma put me in the mindset of asking critical questions like that.”

Kendy Trinh came to UW Tacoma hoping to set down roots. The time and effort he’s invested in campus have paid off. “It's hard for me to see what I'm doing or the impact I’m making,” Trinh said. “But my friends are able to see it, and they’ve really pushed me to recognize it, too.”

Return to 2018 Commencement: 1,850 Change Makers

Written by: 
Danni Derrickson / June 7, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or