Meng gives back to her new country
Ying “May” Meng came to the U.S. in search of opportunity. She found a new home.
When Ying “May” Meng discusses her life in the United States, she reflects on the reception she and her husband, Ren Tang, have received since moving here in 2008.
“Everyone has been so kind and supportive,” Meng said. “They inspired me to give back to my new home.”
Born in a small town near Shanghai, China, Meng obtained a college degree in accounting in Beijing and worked for several years in a position that exposed her to the field of information technology (IT).
When the couple emigrated to the U.S., they stayed first in Los Angeles, California, before deciding to return to college to obtain bachelor’s degrees in IT.
Drawn to Gwinnett County because of its diversity, Meng said the couple chose to enroll at GGC after a campus tour. This summer, the two naturalized U.S. citizens both will graduate with honors. Her IT degree concentration is digital media and his concentration is network security.
Meng’s plans beyond graduation focus on continuing to serve her new country. This service began in California, where she provided videography and video editing support for her church’s mission to help the homeless. Since moving to Gwinnett, she has jetted across the country to continue assisting the church.
Meng and her husband volunteer for the National Park Service, putting in many hours of support at Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Gulf Islands National Seashore. Their work has included cleaning beaches, supporting Earth Day events and creating video tour guides.
However, her most significant contribution was inspired by a GGC employee.
While in school, Meng supports her education by working as a student assistant. When she was relatively new to campus, working part-time at the Daniel J. Kaufman Library & Learning Center, she met a then-library supervisor who talked to her about service in the U.S. Navy. Elisia George was a Navy officer with four years of active duty and four years in the Reserves. Meng was intrigued.
“I asked her many questions once I knew she was in the Navy,” Meng said.
George regaled Ying with stories of travel on the seas and of a sailor’s life aboard a ship.
“I wanted to be a part of that team,” the soft-spoken Meng said. “Her story inspired me and I felt strongly about giving back.”
Both Meng and Tang joined the Naval Reserves in 2013. Since that time, she said GGC’s library staff members have been flexible when her work schedule had to be changed to accommodate Reservist duties.
“They never complained,” she said. “They would just always say, ‘Come back safely.’”
Meng, an electrician’s mate 2nd Class, was named a Reserve Blue Jacket of the Year by Atlanta’s Navy Operational Support Center for her “superior performance” throughout 2016.
Meng found the Blue Jacket award humbling and inspirational, encouraging her to continue to work hard “and to be a better me.”
She also received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Award for her work with the National Park Service and her former church’s homeless project.
According to Lt. Commander Dave Weber, Meng has been an asset since the day she joined his Reserve unit, always volunteering to help.
Meng’s “can do” attitude enabled her to juggle her Reservist duties, campus job, volunteer service and studies. Whenever registration time approached, she promptly responded to her mentor.
“She would come in with her multi-semester study plan drafted, ready for discussion. I didn’t even have to suggest that to her,” said Dr. Bob Lutz, associate professor of IT, who has been Meng’s mentor since 2012.
Meng said she hopes to parlay her IT degree, digital media expertise, prior work experience and English/Chinese bilingualism into a leadership role in the Reserves. She also plans to pursue a master’s degree in IT.
“I hope others can learn from my experiences and be inspired as others have inspired me,” she said. “They can do this, too.”
Find more transformative stories about the GGC experience in Engage Magazine.