By Jonathan Farrell
While many people at age 32 are still struggling to find their path in life, Sunset District native Alan Wong has a clear vision for his purpose; he has dedicated his life to public service.
Wong is currently a legislative aide to District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar with ambitions to find new ways to serve his community.
Wong attended Herbert Hoover Middle School and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 2005. Thanks to City College of San Francisco classes he took as a teenager, Wong was able to graduate from University of California, San Diego (UCSD) at age 19 in 2007. After graduating, Wong completed a master’s degree in public affairs at the University of San Francisco and later became a union organizer.
As Mar’s legislative aide, Wong has helped draft some significant measures. But there is more to Wong’s story of public service.
Wong is also a distinguished officer in the Army National Guard.
“I never thought of joining the military,” Wong said.
The unexpected journey that would help him to acquire crucial leadership skills began while he was at UCSD.
In 2007, a New York Times article about Army Colonel David Sutherland and his brigade chaplain, Major Charlie Fenton caught his attention. In the midst of some of the most horrific situations in the Middle East, these military leaders made it their duty to reach out to each and every soldier and their families in their pastoral care, regardless of the obstacles – including suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) themselves.
“It just struck me,” Wong said. “I felt it was part of my civic duty to serve. So many Americans were making personal sacrifices. So I stepped up and joined.”
Wong served as an enlisted Army National Guard soldier for eight years and was part of the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), serving his country in the military’s legal system utilizing his paralegal expertise.
When the opportunity to become an officer became available, Wong was accepted into the Army Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA. Wong was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2017 and finished his military police leadership course in 2018.
Wong noted that the training was intense.
“We were placed in various leadership scenarios where maintaining order amid a crisis was critical,” he said.
Wong described the most challenging part of his training and military exercises: “For five consecutive training days, having to endure sleep deprivation, write out 20 to 30 pages of an operation plan each night, and then be prepared to brief each plan the following day.”
While the training was grueling, Wong said it was “empowering because we all had to work as a team and trust one another through difficult situations.”
Shortly after finishing his officer leadership training, Wong was activated by the state of California for the Tubbs Fire emergency in 2017.
“I was called upon by my unit, told it was an emergency, and to immediately pack my gear and go,” he said.
For three weeks, Wong was placed in charge of soldiers providing security and support at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds evacuees’ center.
A year later, Wong was activated for the Camp Fire in Paradise. Wong was in battalion operations and was responsible for coordinating troops supporting the State Office of Emergency Services and Butte County Sheriff’s Department. Then in 2019, Wong was again activated for the Kincade Fire in Geyserville and surrounding areas of Sonoma County.
Wong said the most fulfilling moment of his service was during the Camp Fire when a soldier and his family had been evacuated from their home because their house was at the edge of the fire line. The anxious family did not know whether their home had burned down, so Wong helped the distraught soldier go to his home and discover that it had been saved.
“The soldier said that it was the kindest act anybody had ever done for him,” Wong said. “I’m glad I was able to provide that soldier with care and to help somebody in need.”
After witnessing the impact of wildfires across communities in California, he is committed to helping the Sunset District and the entire City be prepared for a major disaster.
“Last year, while in Mar’s office, I worked on legislation to expedite plans for building the Emergency Firefighting Water System (EFWS) into the Sunset and other westside neighborhoods,” Wong said. “It is absolutely essential to get this system put into place. I witnessed a major fire and I don’t ever want that to happen to my neighborhood. I love the Sunset.”
During his short time in Mar’s office, Wong has been able to work on several city programs and signature pieces of legislation, including securing Free City College for a decade, bringing City College to the Sunset, expediting the building of the EFWS, and getting crime victim data.
This year, Wong is working on legislation to provide city support to City College of San Francisco (CCSF) so the school can maintain its lifelong learning and enrichment programs serving the broader community. He is also running for the CCSF board in November.
City College of San Francisco holds a special place in Wong’s heart.
“My parents were immigrants and the programs offered at City College helped them immensely,” Wong said. “When my father came to this country, he attended the City College culinary certificate program, which helped him to get the job skills to become a Local 2 union hotel cook and sole provider for my family for two decades. The decent wages and health care that my dad obtained enabled my family to afford tiny in-laws in the Sunset and live with dignity and respect in San Francisco.”
“My mother was also a City College student,” Wong said. “She took ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and would come home each day with confidence in her language and social skills.”
Wong sees establishing a satellite CCSF campus in the Sunset as essential. In February of last year, Mar held a town hall meeting at A.P. Giannini Middle School. The response was positive. CCSF Trustee Ivy Lee and CCSF Program Coordinator Kathleen White were among those in attendance. Each stated that the idea of having CCSF establish a presence in the Sunset District would benefit the community and strengthen educational goals for the future. Mar utilized this and held similar meetings to gather information from surveys and get public feedback.
“I helped organize those town hall meetings,” Wong said, “After receiving more than 400 surveys, I worked with City College, SFUSD, Wah Mei School, and others to bring City College to the Sunset and helped enroll more than 100 students.”
City College Sunset opened its doors on Jan. 13 with its first group of students in ESL, older adult, child development and high school dual enrollment classes.
“I’m so honored to have this opportunity to serve the community I was born and raised in,” Wong said.
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