Tina Semko is a first-generation Vietnamese American who has resided in Oregon her entire life. Semko’s family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1975. Her mother’s family settled in Washington and her father’s family settled in Portland. Eventually, Semko’s mother moved to Portland where she met Semko’s father. Since then, her family has remained in Portland, and Semko was raised in Southeast Portland. She attended Rose City Park Elementary School and Cleveland High School. And throughout her life, she and her family have been involved at the Our Lady of Lavang Parish. There, she attended Vietnamese school, and now sends her own children there. She still lives in Portland and works on diversity, equity, and inclusion through her company, Health Equity Partners.

In this interview, Semko describes her and her family’s experiences living in the Pacific Northwest. She begins by explaining how her family was able to escape Vietnam right after the fall of Saigon and come to the United States. Semko states that the transition to living in America was not easy for her family, but they have been able to build a strong Vietnamese community that has been an integral part of their lives here. She gives an example of how when she was in the Portland Public Schools system the teachers and counselors did not try to understand her political location and how it affected her educational experience. The stories from her and her family’s life inspired her to begin her own business, Health Equity Partners. Semko also has done several other projects that involve documenting the stories and experiences of the Vietnamese population in this region. For example, one of her current projects is working with her aunt to write a book from her grandmother’s stories and share those experiences with others. Semko concludes by discussing the ongoing racial, political, and economic divisions experienced by the Vietnamese community as well as COVID’s impact on her family and the community.