About Us


Susan Xiong

(Trauma-Informed Trainer, Trauma-Supportive Trainer & Trauma-Practitioner Certified)

“In honor of the scholars who has touched our lives, especially our parents, the work we do through A Hopeful Encounter will allow us to give all children in South East Asia the gift of education!”

Susan has her Master’s in Public Administration.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from CSU, Fresno. Susan has a passion in advocating access to equitable education for the marginalized and most vulnerable children in SEA.   She also believes strongly in the leadership of our young people, in cultivating their leadership skills to lead today, to create a better tomorrow.

Executive Board

Nancy Yang

Board Chair / Volunteer Coordinator
(Trauma-Informed Certified)

Graduated from CSU Fresno, with a B.S. majoring in Public Health – EOHS and minoring in Gerontology. Nancy was blessed to be able to study abroad in Southeast Asia for 5 months, where she learned about their culture, health, and the lacking systems they are faced with everyday. Coming home, Nancy realized how much we take for granted and found a new passion to make a difference for individuals in SE Asia who have so much potential, but need guidance and a safe place to grow. That is what she believe A Hopeful Encounter can become. Through this organization, Nancy hopes children, as well as adults, are enlightened by the promise of education and that one day, they will not be afraid and confidently change their lives, and those lives around them for the better.

McNight Thao

Vice-Chair / Hope Coder
(Trauma-Informed Certified)

McNight graduated with a Bachelor’s degree at California State University, Fresno in the field of Computer Engineering. He has experience in multiple programming technologies ranging from Front-end web design, Android App development, and human to machine UI. With a positive outlook on life, McNight strives to learn and keep learning as the world keeps updating.

Arick Xiong

Chief Financial Officer
(Traum-Informed Trainer, Trauma-Practitioner Certified)

Our Chief Financial Officer is a team player! He has served as Assistant Coach in Badminton for the local school district for the past 5 years. He loves recreational sports and hopes to inspire kids in SEA to embrace the benefits that come with playing in team sports!

Brief biography: Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with an International Option from CSU, Fresno. Growing up in Laos and Thailand, Arick has a holistic understanding of the need for proper education support in South East Asia

Board Members

Julie Her

Board Director-Secretary, 2018-2019

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Julie Her recently graduated from Fresno State in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in the Bilingual Authorization Program in Hmong along with a pursuit of the Hmong Minor. With a mission to promote higher education and academic success, Julie wishes to pursue her dreams of becoming a prospective Bilingual teacher. During her spare time she loves to read, take walks, Hmong dance, and listen to Hmong stories. MyJulie’s vision with A Hopeful Encounter is to make the mission come to life. She hopes to gain valuable perspectives on our Southeast Asian community in America and in third world countries on education. Julie wants others to see our organization as a cause to come together to instill support and empower a vision of promoting equitable and quality education for lower socioeconomic communities.

Mai Chou Thao

Principal Hope Giver
(Trauma-Informed Certified)

Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a Human Resource Management Option from CSU, Fresno. In her recent visits to Laos, Mai Chou saw first-hand the lack of access to education and opportunity in the area, which inspired her to join forces with A Hopeful Encounter.

Giving has always been a core value of Mai Chou. From her days as a college student doing community service work to her life as a professional in natural resources, she has given back to her community for over ten years. She loves to be the voice for Hmong women through the radio station KBIF 900AM and provides positive energy from her youtube channel with her sister, Between Sisters.

She truly believes the words of Bobby Unser who once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” Let’s provide every child access to education, so that they can be prepare for the opportunity to be successful.


Thongsy Lee

Lao Country Director

Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Vongchaleneu College. Thongsy currently resides in Laos. He has experience working with non-profit organizations in information gathering, managing daily operations, and M&E program objectives. He has a vast knowledge of the remote villages in Laos.

Thongsy likes to travel the countryside of Laos and is very familiar with it’s rich history. He loves interacting with the locals and enjoys soccer during his free time.

Piter Xiong

Lao Operations Manager

Piter received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Vinh University in Vietnam. He lives in Phonsavahn, Laos. Piter loves physical activities and is always open to try new things. He began his journey with A Hopeful Encounter to uplift youths in his community through education and personal development.

Advisory Board

Don R. Simmons, Ph.D.

Don Simmons holds a B.S. and M.A. in education, and M.P. A. and a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Texas A&M University, He did post-doctoral studies at the  University of San Francisco and Yale University’s Program on Nonprofit Organizations, where he specialized in organizational governance and generosity.  Dr. Simmons is a national consultant with Community Benefit Organizations, specializing in Volunteer Leadership, Board Engagement and Transformational Philanthropy.  He is Co-Director and Distinguished Lecturer in Humanics at California State University, Fresno.  Previously, Dr. Simmons served as Associate Professor of Business at Biola University and Director of the Center for Volunteerism and Community Service at Occidental College.  He was Director of Continuing Professional Development and Associate Professor of Education at Golden Gate Theological Seminary. He is the author of hundreds of articles and monographs on volunteer engagement and community leadership.  Dr. Simmons served as a member of the board of the International Association of Volunteer Administrators, the Volunteer Centers of Orange County, La Mirada, Fresno and Marin County.  He currently serves as a board member of the Arte’ Americas, MADventure Foundation and is an advisor to the Whitney Trust. For the past 15 years, he has served on the City of Fresno’s Historic Preservation Commission. A certified BoardSource trainer and consultant, Don’s focus is working with organizations and communities which might ordinarily fall through the cracks.  A native of South Carolina, he enjoys historic preservation, neighborhood organizing and spending time pretending to garden, but mostly hanging out with his rescued dog & cat.      

Dr. Sam Thowsao Bliatout

B.A. in Horticultural Science and Ph.D. in Business Administration. He believes economic development and job creation are top priorities. Dr. Sam has an established networking system with both local and international leaders, scholars, and local business communities. He has a variety of expertise in both the government and private sectors, including diverse social and political cultures, business development and management. He has worked in collaboration with Korea, Singapore, China and CSU Fresno in conducting project feasibility studies from start to end resulting in developed businesses for the last 25 years in Asia, with a focus in Thailand, China and Laos. Formerly, he has held positions as President of Southeast Fresno Economic Revitalization Company, Vice-Chairman of Republican Coalition for the State of California, and Committee member of the International Trade Committee, Fresno area Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Ray Tjahjadi

Doctor of Education, Education Technology and Information Management and MBA, Information Systems, Ray currently is a lecturer at CSU Fresno and serving as faculty at Willow International Community College Center. Ray believes that knowledge is a forever asset that must be nurtured by and shared among all people in this world. Education, formal or informal, is a mean to plant, grow, and cultivate knowledge.

One of his favorite quote from Kofi Annan, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

Jim Santos

Mr. Santos is currently the Area Chair for the College of Humanities at the University of Phoenix in Fresno. Known as Coach to his friends and students Coach Santos serves as a volunteer for SCORE Central Valley helping people to develop a new business venture here in the Fresno region. Formerly a Director of Athletics for Special Olympics International in Washington DC Coach has traveled the world visiting more than 100 countries to develop sports and recreation programs for those children and adults with a developmental disability. The founder of the Inspiration Park of Fresno this park will serve those children and adults with any type of disability to enjoy sports and recreation opportunities provided by this one of a kind park in the state of California. Coach Santos has been awarded many national honors in the area of sports, recreation and education and has published more than 55 professional journal articles and academic sports books.

Sue Lee

Sue received her B.S in Business Marketing at CSU Fresno. She is currently an Area Coach of Operation with Panda Express. Sue states her purpose in life is to help people live a life full of joy and happiness. Sue enjoys giving her time and resources to support communities, especially to bring hope to children in need. To Sue, happiness is giving and serving others