Si Dang just completed his first full year as KidCAT Chairman. He turns 44 on Jan. 17 and approaches his 25th year of incarceration for first- degree murder and attempted murder.
Dang sat down with SQ News for a Q&A about himself and his vision of KidCAT.
Q: So many people ask— what’s KidCAT really all about?
A: Inspiring humanity. We use those words a lot lately, but just think about what that truly means. It’s about service— giving back and connecting with our community.
We’re always here to support our youth and youth of- fenders—to encourage, inspire and remind them that people really care about them.
Q: What’s the most valu- able lesson you’ve learned over the last year?
A: Always have an open mind. Working with our members, I’ve learned to listen more and take advice. Being able to communicate and work to get her as a team to get things done—that’s what counts.
I’m amazed by the ongoing support from all our partnerships—The Beat Within, Huckleberry House, Project Avary. Their dedication and commitment inspires all of us.
Also, I want to send my deepest thanks to our incred- ible volunteers and all our members for their hard work.
Q: What’s the biggest les- son you’ve learned through- out your entire incarcera- tion?
A: The value and strength of family. I’m so fortunate that my family’s always been there for me through thick and thin—my mom, sisters and brothers.
That’s why I emphasize and foster that same sense of fam- ily in KidCAT. All of us ben- efit when we support and take care of each other.
Q: What’s the most im- portant thing young lifers need to know as they do their time?
A: They need to understand that it’s okay to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and admit your vulnerabili- ties. The strongest people are those who understand they’re not alone.
Q: If you could visit and speak to kids in juvenile halls,whatwouldyousayto them?
A: There are many people who care and love you. Don’t ever give up hope. Stay strong, believe in yourself and go to school—don’t turn your back on education.
Q: What can you say to all the folks who’ve requested KidCAT’s First Step curriculum and are looking for guidance?
A: First of all, I want to sincerely apologize for the long delay. I know how committed so many youths around the system are about trying to learn our curriculum.
My biggest vision for 2020—we will get First Step out and into the hands of all those who asked.
Q: What’s your biggest hope for 2020?
A: Reaching out to more supporters and advocates in law enforcement, the judicial system, and higher education—and continue to raise awareness of youth issues.
Q: What can you tell our readers about the impact of newly signed legislation?
A: Especially with Senate Bill 965 and the po- tential to earn credit off of their
minimum parole eligibility date, that’s going to bring a lot of hope to youth offenders.
I think of all the possibilities and potential to not just gain freedom—but to gain a sense
of hope and to motivate and encourage the youth to better themselves.
Q: Who’s one celebrity you’d love to invite to a KidCAT meeting?
A: That’s gotta be Gov. Gavin Newsom. He’s such a strong leader, and I totally respect that. He stays with integrity, compassion and heart.
Q: What’s one thing you’d say to Governor Newsom?
A: As a youth offender—we can change and become better people. We have the ability to heal within ourselves within the community.
Q: Why is a second chance so important?
A: Nobody’s perfect. People can change. To give them a chance to do something better—why not give that?
Instead of always locking them up and throwing away the key, give them that chance to grow and give something back to society.
Q: Why do you believe you deserve a second chance?
A: Honestly, I don’t think I do. Andy Tran, the innocent person I killed—he didn’t get a second chance. I’m just grateful to serve others and continue do- ing what I do.
Andy Tran and Sen Dang (no relation), they were both in- nocent victims. I always try to honor them, their families and the community of Stockton for all the harm I caused.
Q: Who’s made the biggest lasting impression on your life?
A: My mom, Thu Pham. From day one, she never gave up on me and was there when I was at my most vulnerable. She’s my true hero—the stron- gest person I know.
Any final thoughts for all of KidCAT’s returned citizens out there?
Thank you for continuing to represent KidCAT in the best possible way—even after you got out.
All you guys continue to advocate for the youth, and we love you.