Padee Yang, loan officer assistant
White Bear Lake, Minn.
Elite Family dance group
Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Middle school: the step between basic math and advanced calculus, when many students are trying desperately to find their place in the world. Like any kid, Shawn Vue was looking for a way to get noticed.
“I started break dancing when I was in eighth grade. The reason was to get a girlfriend,” he admits, laughing. “So, I got the girlfriend, but then I was asking myself, ‘What’s the next step? What’s the reason why I’m still doing this?’”
In high school, Shawn founded a break dancing club to host events for people who didn’t have access to other means of entertainment.
“This whole idea of having community come together started growing on me,” he says.
After graduation, Shawn pursued freelance dance for a couple years before founding another dance group called Elite Family in 2015, creating opportunity for people who didn’t have the necessary funds to join a club.
“That allowed me to become – I guess you could say – a pioneer in my own way, because there’s no leaders that are doing these things,” Shawn says. “There’s no role models. There’s no mentors, so I had to step up and be one.”
In her first year at Bell, loan officer assistant Padee Yang also discovered the power of giving back to her community – as part of Bell’s Pay It Forward program. Looking for a cause in which to pay it forward, Padee posted on Facebook to see who might benefit from a donation.
“Shawn actually reached out with a whole essay – just to tell me the benefits of what the money could do to help Elite Family,” Padee explains. “I just knew he’s worked so hard to be where he’s at now, so I wanted to contribute in order for them to continue thriving.”
Getting together with a group of friends, Padee handed Shawn a folder containing a Pay It Forward check for $1,000.
“I was thinking, ‘Man, this is a huge opportunity for me. How can I fully utilize the potential of this grant, and how can I make it (long lasting) and consistent?’” Shawn recalls.
Together, Shawn and a friend created an urban dance event, called “The Homies,” to feature local talent.
“The awesome thing is that a lot of the people we worked with really enjoyed our vision and what we wanted to do, so we got the space for free, the photographer, the sound systems and music,” Shawn says. “The Pay It Forward grant really helped me establish that event moving forward.”
Not only did the show provide entertainment for the community, the dancers received professional photography and video recording to help build their portfolios.
“I felt like (Padee) really believes in me,” Shawn says. “She understands the difficulties of trying to provide, trying to create opportunities for people.”
As the first Hmong person named United States of America's (USOA) Miss Minnesota – and representing Minnesota at the national level in 2020 – Padee understands what it takes to not only realize a dream, but go after it.
“I just knew this money was going toward people who are constantly hustling and working so hard to make their dreams come true. I’m just grateful to be a part of that.”
Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.