Labors of Leadership

Cyndi Nguyen continues efforts to improve New Orleans East and beyond

As the executive director of a nonprofit, a former board member of the East NOLA Business Development District, and a new member of the New Orleans City Council, Cyndi Nguyen has spearheaded significant improvements in the city, and will continue to ramp up efforts to improve the area and constituents that she serves.

She won a seat on the City Council in 2017, representing District E, an expansive region of New Orleans that includes the Lower Ninth Ward, parts of  Gentilly and New Orleans East. The latter neighborhood is where she was raised after emigrating from Vietnam at the age of 5.

“I have known Cyndi for many years. And, I continue to be impressed by her passion and commitment to the New Orleans East community. She has tremendous energy and a strong grasp of the issues that affect her constituents,” said Troy Henry, Managing Partner at Henry Consulting and ENOBDD executive board member. “Cyndi is the former Vice Chairperson of the ENOBDD, where she established herself as a visionary and a true go-getter. New Orleans East is on the right track with Cyndi at the helm.”

Cyndi said that she has always wanted to positively impact the community.

In 2001, she launched Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training (VIET), which helps “bridge the gaps” between people of different ethnic backgrounds. As executive director of the nonprofit, she developed educational and economic training programs, allowing the organization to serve as a resource center for minority residents in Louisiana. It also helps non-English speaking communities integrate into American society despite cultural and language barriers they face.  

“Politics comes with it,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest in serving people.” In her various leadership positions, she said she will continue to “focus on the needs of the people.”

She firmly believes in the potential for opportunity in New Orleans East, despite its current problems.

One of her main goals is to help the East — and the city as a whole — to eliminate blight, which is particularly rampant in the areas she represents.

August 2018 will mark 13 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, and Nguyen notes that “a large number of blighted properties still haven’t received the attention they require to move forward.”

Nguyen is focused on “cleaning up the district. It has to start with the clean-up.”

She acknowledges that trash removal alone in the area isn’t enough. She also wants to “change the behaviors” that lead to littering and blight in the first place, by continuing to improve the quality of education.

“People should not be trashing their community,” she said. “The cycle has to end. We have to focus on education.”

Nguyen has hosted clean-up days, and said the Board is working on “encouraging groups and neighborhood associations to host clean-ups in their neighborhoods. We are also meeting with partners in the criminal justice system to see if we can incorporate a community service program for those who have committed minor offenses to help.”

In the near future, she hopes to establish an official anti-litter campaign for not just the East, but the city as a whole.

Her efforts toward improving education have had some positive results so far: Soon, a Head Start school will open its doors in New Orleans East.

Head Start, a federally funded program through the Department of Health and Human Services, provides early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and families.
Its establishment in the area is one of the accomplishments Nguyen is most proud of in her role as a leader in the community.

“I’ve been focusing on this for eight years,” she said. “It’s finally opening in September. Seeing kids that don’t have access to an early childhood learning environment finally getting access to it — that’s a good feeling to have.”

“As a Board member Cyndi was a driving force in helping the East NOLA Business Development District begin its campaign to consciously and confidently celebrate the many assets of Eastern New Orleans,” said Mtumishi St. Julien, ENOBDD executive board member.  “As a City Council member, we are certain she will continue to use this same strategy to help attract more investment and business development to the East.”