Meet the 2017 Interns for Roots: Him Mark Lai Family History Project!

Roots 2017 Summer Interns consists of 11 people from the Bay Area, Boston, and Vancouver. They will visit many areas of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong 廣東省, China, including Kaiping 開平, Taishan 台山, Doumen 斗門, Zhongshan 中山, Foshan 佛山, Zhaoqing 肇慶, Nanhai 南海, Shunde 順德, Panyu 番禺, Dongguan 東莞 and Huizhou 惠州. They depart for their journey on July 4, 2017!

 At the Eat.Root.Love. Gala in April 2017.

At the Eat.Root.Love. Gala in April 2017.


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Oliver Goodman 郭富城 

San Francisco, CA

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological):  Dog, Scorpio

What do you do for fun?  I enjoy cooking, playing guitar, chess, fly fishing, going to concerts and anything related to Bay Area sports teams.

How did you hear about Roots?  I first heard about Roots from my mom, who was a member of the Roots Plus group a few years ago. She had such an incredible trip learning about our family background and visiting her village that I knew that I had to experience the journey for myself.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  During the Roots experience, I seek to strengthen my connection to my Chinese heritage and culture. Ultimately, I hope to not only get a better sense of self-identity as a Chinese-American but to also provide my family members with a more tangible connection and fulfilling answers surrounding our family history. 

What are your expectations for the trip?  I have many expectations about the Roots trip, which will also be my first time in China. Firstly, I expect to be challenged and uncomfortable as a first-time visitor. Nevertheless, I also expect to learn an incredible amount, whether it be about the Chinese language, history, or culture. I know I will be surrounded by like-minded people who are just as eager as me to learn about their family roots, so I can't wait for this trip of a lifetime!


Gabriela Koc-Spadaro 郭文仙

Vancouver, British Columbia

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological)Monkey, Cancer

What do you do for fun?  I enjoy playing basketball, keeping up with fashion trends, painting, and photography. I pretty much like staying active and creative. 

How did you hear about Roots?  Through my aunt Nancy Koc, who lives in San Francisco and was a part of Roots Plus.  

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  I would like to understand my own culture more. I think visiting the village where my grandfather and grandmother lived is super cool. I can see the different way of life they lived. 

What are your expectations for the trip?  To have a fun adventure and to absorb as much culture, food, knowledge, sights, and a little shopping as I can.


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Julia Kwong 鄺愛婷

San Francisco, CA

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological)Monkey, Sagittarius

What do you do for fun?  I enjoy exploring areas of fitness, fashion, and food. On my free time, I like catching up with friends and planning for the next adventure!

How did you hear about Roots? I heard about Roots from Scott Leung and then attended 2016’s Roots presentation/exhibit.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  As a first-generation Chinese American, I’d like to see the environment and conditions my parents grew up in and return with a stronger sense of how to provide a better life for them.

What are your expectations for the trip?  I’m going on this trip with an open mind but hope to be fully immersed in the culture of China.


Jessica Hua Lam 林鸞文

Oakland, CA

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological):  Rooster, Cancer

How did you hear about Roots?  I heard about Roots from Roots alumni: Danielle Lam, Frank Lee, and Benson Tran.

What do you do for fun?  I enjoy reading, volunteering, learning and trying new things, hiking, going to the beach, hanging out with my fur babies Amigo (cat) and Hima (dog), going to concerts, traveling, and of course eating.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  I hope to help preserve my family's history and better understand who I am through this search of my ancestral village. I want to learn about the lives of my ancestors and the struggles they endured throughout their journeys that have made it possible for me to be here today. I look forward to reflecting on my Roots experience and sharing the many things I learn with my friends and family. 

What are your expectations for the trip?  I am unsure what to expect, but I am prepared to be constantly humbled during this trip. 


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Scott Leung 梁沛榮

San Francisco, CA

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological):  Rooster, Cancer

What do you do for fun?  Fitness, Photography, Reading, Socializing with friends.

How did you hear about Roots?  I learned about Roots through my cousins Jonny Lam (2012) and Danielle Lam (2006).

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  Through Roots I hope to find a closer sense of identity, build lifelong relationships, and learn what it means to be Chinese.

What are your expectations for the trip?   I expect China go be extremely hot in July! I do not have any expectations for this trip, only hopes. I’m going into this experience with an open-mind.


 Rebekah (right) with her sister Angelica

Rebekah (right) with her sister Angelica

Rebekah Sze-Tung Olstad 敖思肜

Boulder, CO

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological):  Snake, Virgo

How did you hear about Roots?  Mostly through chance and the internet! I did find out later that one of my co-workers is a Roots alumni.

What do you do for fun?  Hiking, dancing, and studying herbalism.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  I'm excited to connect to my family's history and to spend time on the land my family called home for so many generations. As an environmentalist, I'm especially interested in learning about our traditional water sources and the work being done now by communities to protect clean water, clean air, and the land for all.

What are your expectations for the trip?  I expect the trip will be meaningful, fun, challenging, and that our cohort will have a great time supporting one another on these important journeys.


David Pon 潘良驹

San Francisco, CA

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological)Horse, Gemini

What do you do for fun?  Go on picnics in beautiful places or BBQ in my backyard on a charcoal grill.

How did you hear about Roots?  My friend from high school, Liz Chan, told me about it.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  I am excited to learn more about what it means to be part of the Chinese diaspora. Engaging with the other Roots interns has been really eye-opening about the diversity of experiences and stories in this community.

What are your expectations for the trip?  I'm expecting to spend most of the time hot and sweaty. I'm hoping to get the opportunity to engage more meaningfully with my culture and identity as a Chinese American person.


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Corinne Tam 譚慧妍

San Francisco, CA

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological)Ox, Libra

What do you do for fun?  I enjoy hiking and photography. 

How did you hear about Roots?  I heard about Roots from family friends, Jon Pong & Kelly Der.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  From this Roots experience, I hope to examine my family's history in detail, retrace their journey from China to the US, and gain a broader view of myself as a Chinese-American. I'm also really excited to share this experience with and learn about the people in my cohort. 

What are your expectations for the trip?  I have no idea what to expect! 


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Jennifer Wong 黃麗婷

San Gabriel, CA aka The 626

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological)Water Rooster, Libra Sun, Leo Moon, Cancer Rising

What do you do for fun?  Write my life down, watch plays at local theatres, take film photos, read comic books, and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race reruns.

How did you hear about Roots?  I have this cousin — not a lot of people know her because she’s not really talked about — and her name’s Rosa Wong-Chie. Rosa’s been trying to recruit me every year for the past 27 years Roots has been around and I’m only 23 years old. I finally applied having had the pleasure of witnessing the past three Roots cohort presentations and subscribing to Al Cheng’s YouTube channel. It’s like Roots was in my life long before I was in Roots.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  I want to create an enduring record of my Wong 黃 + Lui 雷 family tree and the many histories it holds. My eldest sister gave birth in August of 2016. If I could pass on to my niece the legacy of her immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents from Toisan, I'd feel more than accomplished.

What are your expectations for the trip?  You know that movie cliche where some grody archaeologists return a lost relic to its original site and that’s supposed to stop the world from ending but then all of a sudden the walls shake and spirits awaken and the sun flickers on and off? I expect something like that for this trip. It should be really unsettling but also fantastic. I want to think that going back to my ancestral villages will end my search for identity and bring closure to generational trauma, when really the ending to the movie will just be a setup for an egregiously budgeted sequel.


Wayne Yeh 葉威

Raised in both Chico & Huntington Beach, CA and now living in Boston, MA 

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological): Wood Dog (I considered doing Roots in 2018 instead, but thought it would be unlucky for my rooting to be during my own zodiac year), Taurus

What do you do for fun?  After moving out to Boston to pursue my undergraduate degree at Tufts University, I became involved in grassroots community organizing in the Chinese American and Asian American community. I now work as a civic action organizer at the Chinese Progressive Association in Boston, and have spent much of my time advocating for and embracing the community in Boston's Chinatown. I spend most of my time eating cheung fan and sitting in cafes.

How did you hear about Roots?  I was researching Chinese diasporic communities and came across Gaginang.org in February 2017. There was a blog post from 2010 introducing Roots, and it felt like I stumbled upon something I didn't know I was looking for. On the Roots site I learned that the 2016 cohort presentation was going to take place in Oakland within 4 days of finding the site--the same weekend I was heading to Oakland for an Asian Americans Advancing Justice summit! I took this coincidence as a sign to apply as soon as possible, and now, here I am.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  I hope to deepen my understanding of the Hakka Chinese experience as well as contextualize my family's migration history from Huizhou by documenting my rooting as an auto-ethnography. I'm also excited to have the opportunity to update our clan's zupu 族譜 with the names of my grandfather and great-grandfather's descendants. Ultimately, I'd love to find ways to share my Roots experience with the larger Chinese American community in the Northeast. I'm also looking forward to connecting with my fellow Rooters and alum!

What are your expectations for the trip?  I'm expecting to not only be impacted by my own rooting, but by the rootings of peers in my cohort as well. I think it'll be impactful to connect to and witness the rootings of my peers within our common Chinese diaspora.


Rayna Young 楊文麗

Oakland, CA

Sign (Chinese Zodiac and Astrological):  Horse, Gemini

What do you do for fun?  Hike and be outdoors!

How did you hear about Roots?  Initially from stumbling upon a Roots exhibit at Oakland Asian Cultural Center many years ago, then from good friend and Roots board member Jane Chin, and most recently from family who participated in Roots Plus 2016.

What would you like to accomplish from this Roots experience?  I hope to see and learn more about the homes and communities my grandparents had to leave behind to move to the United States so that their children and future generations - including me - could grow up Chinese American.

What are your expectations for the trip?  Continuous learning and growth!  I am also excited to visit the ancestral villages of the rest of the group!