Asian American Hero of CO: Kevin Leung
2018 Asian American Hero of Colorado Awardee:
Kevin Leung, Director of Douglas County School District Board of Education
Born into a very poor Hong Kong family, Leung’s parents were both illiterate, and he came to the U.S. with nothing in his name. Leung grew up in poor public housing and was admitted to a school operated by Catholic charities. He is grateful to have enjoyed a first-class educational experience at no cost to his family.
“Without the generosity of the donors to provide free education for poor people like me, I would have never made it out of the slums in Hong Kong,” Leung says. “I want to give back, so the underprivileged can have the same opportunities as me. By giving back, they too can break the cycle of poverty and develop to their fullest potential. It is the right thing to do and can provide inspiration to countless others that you can make it too if you work hard and educate yourself well.”
Leung earned two master’s degrees from the University of Colorado and was elected in 2017 as the board director of the Douglas County School District. He earned the trust of more than 52,000 voters in Douglas County to serve a four-year term to manage the school district’s budget of $700 million to improve the educational system for more than 68,000 students.
He is the only Asian immigrant elected official in Colorado and the only Asian American appointed to serve in the Colorado Department of Education’s Accountability Work Group.
“Through hard work and dedication, Kevin has had great successes in life that make him a positive role model for immigrant communities,” says Ching-Ching Chan, a colleague who nominated Leung for the Asian American Heroes award. “Kevin successfully breaks through many glass ceilings in the mainstream American community with his victory in the November 2017 school board election.”’
Leung also currently serves as an advisor for the Overseas Community Affairs Council, Republic of China (Taiwan) and chair for Hop Sing Tong Denver. His past contributions include serving as chair for the City of Parker’s Authority for Reinvestment Advisory Committee, vice president of Asian Roundtable of Colorado and president of the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce Greater Denver Colorado.
He and his wife, Shirley, also own several successful businesses in Colorado; and prior to that, Leung managed an IT operation and was in charge of Chinese operations for a Fortune 500 company.
“I would not be here today without all the support and encouragement from my lifelong partner, Shirley, which let me contribute a lot of time to improving public education,” Leung says.
Besides being a loving husband and father, Leung’s greatest achievement is his dedication to public education. He has successfully protected public education funding for public schools in the U.S. by defending Article 9 Section 7 in the Colorado State Constitution and works to incorporate the (ESSA) Every Student Succeeds Act law into the Colorado’s education system.
Leung lives by a mantra from Confucius: “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”
He encourages younger generations to learn from immigrants like him who have a strong work ethic; acquire an education — whether it’s through a traditional university, vocational school or apprenticeship — and not be afraid to work hard.
“If my illiterate parents did not teach me to shoot for the stars when I was growing up, I would never have dreamed of getting out of the slums and going overseas to the land of the opportunity: the U.S.A.,” he says. “I believe that I could be anything I set my mind to, and I dreamed big and so should the young people. Though your dream may not come to fruition, you will never have regrets because you tried!”
Another one of Leung’s favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.”