Board of Directors
- Tung Bach Ly, Interim Chairman
- Minh Nguyen, Head Board Member
- Tom Costanza, Board Member
- Mimi-Cristien Nguyen, Board Member
- Joel Waltzer, Board Member
Founder and Executive Director
Minh Nguyen is the Founder and Executive Director of VAYLA New Orleans, Board Member of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadian, Second Vice Chair of the Asian Pacific American Society of New Orleans, and 2013 Inaugural Fellow of the Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute. Since 2006, Minh has dedicated his life to building a new kind of home for New Orleanians, one that honors that right and power of local residents, young and old, to determine the future of their own neighborhoods. As the Executive Director of VAYLA, Minh has dedicated his work to creating space and leveraging resources to build the capacity of youth, their families, and supporting community members to lead and influence policies, practices and procedures within the public education and health sectors. Through his leadership, Minh has successfully brought together African-American, Vietnamese, Latino and Caucasian community members to take collective action and determine and the future outcomes of their community. His long-term advocacy and organizing efforts have invigorated political energy of New Orleanians through uniting residents under the common goals of taking local control over their schools and city governance structures.
Minh graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a double major in management and marketing. His leadership as a student includes his services as the External Vice President of the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Association (UNAVSA) and the Executive Director of the UNAVSA Fourth Annual North American Vietnamese Student Conference.
Deputy and Admin Director
Huong Nguyen became a member of VAYLA New Orleans in 2006 and became a staff in 2008. She was born and raised in New Orleans East, Louisiana. She graduated from the University of New Orleans in May 2012, where she majored in Business Marketing.
She is the Founder and Program Coordinator of the Young Womyn’s Leadership Program (YWLP), which seeks to provide a safe space for young womyn that supports the development of healthy coping skills, enhanced self esteem and increases their intellectual, civic, and social skills. She initiated the first young womyn’s flag football team in New Orleans East. At VAYLA, Huong is also responsible for VAYLA’s cultural programming, which sustains VAYLA’s mission of cultural enrichment and serves as a mechanism to recruit new members and develop them as leaders. The coordinator also collaborates with the Administrative Director on VAYLA’s payroll and financial management.
Huong was awarded the 2009 Service Leader/Youth Ally Change Maker Award from the Gulf South Youth Action Corps and she was also the 2nd Runner Up in the 2009 ASPIRE Outstanding Woman of the Year Award. From VAYLA, she received the ‘Most Valuable Player – Womyn’s Flag Football Award’ in July 2009 and the ‘Seeds of Hope Award’ in May 2011.
Huong enjoys sharing her food favorites, pomegranates and homemade kale chips, with the young people.
Dwight Carney is the Program Manager of VAYLA New Orleans and coordinator of VAYLA’s Music Production Studio. He is a New Orleans native and resides in the Ninth Ward Desire community. Dwight knows that meaningful and sustainable change happens with the community for which the change will impact; and, he practices this philosophy through his work. Prior to VAYLA, Dwight served as the Chief of Staff at Tulane University’s School of Social Work where he helped evaluate and elevate the School’s people, processes and programs. Additionally, Dwight served as an educator in New Orleans’ public schools, a program coordinator at the Partnership for Youth Development and a Data Systems Specialist in the United States Army.
Dwight received many awards and honors as a result of his time in the United States Army to include: the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with the “M” Device, the Army Achievement Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with Two Bronze Stars, the Fort Polk Sergeant Major Coin, the National Defense Service Medal, the Overseas Service Medal, the Louisiana War Cross Medal and the Washington Artillery Commander’s Coin.
Dwight graduated from Tulane University where he studied management and social science. Dwight currently studies management at Grand Canyon University and is expected to graduate in October 2018.
Reproductive Justice Organizer
Mars joined VAYLA as a member in 2012 and became a youth staff in 2015. He was born in Fountain Valley, California but was raised in New Orleans East. He is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Orleans.
Mars is a Founder and the Lead Organizer of Ride to Success (RTS), VAYLA’s transportation campaign, which seeks to make the RTA, New Orleans public transit system, more reliable, safe, more efficient, and more accessible. He also works on General Meetings, which makes sure that the members of VAYLA stayed informed of events going on in VAYLA and let the members have a voice in the decision making process. He also supports VAYLA-NO’s Environmental Justice Campaign, Academic Support, Family Circle, and Reproductive Justice Program.
His other interests are playing guitar/piano, breaking/break dancing, playing games, reading books and manga, and watching anime.