When Jeannie Tim Wong came to Miami from Hong Kong to attend Florida International University, she felt like a fish out of water. One day at the campus canteen, she watched a student selling cupcakes for a fundraiser approach every table except hers. Not long after, another student asked whether she spoke English before laughing and walking away. These experiences confirmed what her gut had already told her: she was being singled out for being Asian. “Just because you look different, people think you’re ‘other,’” she says.
Wong was determined to change this. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Affairs and a master’s in public administration, she became the program manager for civic engagement at Florida Asian Services in 2018. In that role, she has worked hard to address Asian American disillusionment, since many people feel the city neglects them or that their individual vote doesn’t matter. As she tells her community, “If you are too silent, people will think you’re an easy target.” Much of her work involves voter education, registration and the citizenship process.
She is also capitalizing on the growing number of eligible AAPI voters in Florida (the population nearly doubled between 2012 and 2018) and increased attention driven by the Anti-Asian Hate movement. “We want to serve as a bridge between the Asian community and the government to facilitate more interactions,” she says.
“If we can come together with other groups, we can have a stronger voice.”Jeannie Tim Wong
State-wide, Wong has advised Floridian cities on how to increase Census participation among Asian Americans. She also oversees an outreach program between the City of North Miami Beach and Chinese seniors. Events include cultural activities like dancing and venues for local government officials to talk about resources like Medicare. “Our elderly can also get their opinions to the government officers,” Wong says. “So it’s facilitating mutual understanding and communication between our seniors and the government.”