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Jenny Chhim


WCCDA Narrative Series | Eleven

DEC 2022


Riverview, Seattle by Google

I am a Cambodian American and the first of my family to be born in America. My family 

first arrived and settled in Bowling Green, Kentucky where I was born, but we eventually 

made it out to Seattle in the early 1990s. We started our lives in Seattle in the South Park 

neighborhood, moved throughout different areas of the city, but by my 7th grade year, 

we moved into the White Center neighborhood, and I eventually graduated from 

Evergreen High School in 2003. 

Although my family moved around quite a few times 

throughout my childhood, we always continued to frequent the businesses in the White 

Center area, especially the Cambodian grocery markets. Now as an adult with a family of 

my own, I am not exactly in White Center, but just a mile north in the Riverview 

Neighborhood and still patron those same businesses and consider myself to be a proud 

part of the White Center Community. 

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One of the many reasons why I love White Center is the rich ethnic diversity of the businesses. When my family can’t agree what to eat, we often hop around White Center with each of us getting what we want. Where else can you get carne asade tacos, Cambodian papaya salad, Vietnamese Pho and so many other various options all within walking distance of one another?! Although I recognize that changes are happening in White Center, I am happy to see that the Cambodian markets in downtown White  Center that I used to frequent as a child with my mother, are still here and thriving (albeit some changes here and there). I love bringing my children into these stores to get snacks and drinks that you wouldn’t get at those other ‘American’ grocery chains. Growing up, most, if not all, businesses were BIPOC owned and many of the community members were just as richly diverse. My hope is that it remains that way. Growing up in such a diverse community taught me that despite our differences in ethnic background, we all wanted to pursue the American dream. Whether that be through education or entrepreneurial endeavors. 

Khmer Mural by WCCDA


When my husband and I first moved into our neighborhood, at first, I was extremely 

excited because it meant that my children would be attending the same elementary 

school as I had. But I soon realized that the school environment, for many bureaucratic 

reasons I’m sure, is quite different now.

Community by WCCDA

Back then, we had the legendary Sue Turner as 

our P.E teacher who created SCATS (Seattle Cirque and Acrobatic TeamS), a program for 

students that had a strong focus on physical education. I, along with so many of my 

peers thrived in that environment. We learned to tumble, juggle, double dutch, jump 

rope, and even unicycle! I honestly believe that type of physical outlet is what also helped 

me thrive academically while I was in elementary and sports played a huge role in my 

secondary education. However, with the retirement of Sue Turner, SCATS was no longer 

running and it saddens me that my children won’t get to experience the rush of pride of 

learning a new skill and having the opportunity to perform for peers and the wider 

community. It’s a shame that Physical education has taken a back burner because I 

believe that many students like me, who grew up with a lot of childhood adversities, 

need physical outlets and an opportunity to take pride and ownership of their skills and 

talent. Now, if parents want that extra physical outlet for their children, they must rely on 

after school activities that oftentimes require extra time and resources that many in our 

community may find challenging. 


Besides school, I can see a shift in the neighborhood. I lived in Park Lake homes as a kid 

and that neighborhood ain’t what it used to be (at least aesthetically). And I find it 

intriguing of the size of these newer houses being built in the neighborhood! For the 

most part, White Center was a community of immigrants and many of us lived in 

subsidized housing. It’s what made Evergreen so diverse in ethnic, social, and economic 

status. It’s this unique attribute, in my opinion, that unifies this community and for some 

of us, such as myself, we find ourselves coming back, whether to live and raise our family 

in the neighborhood or come to support businesses. But others work to advocate for this 

wonderful community! For people coming into this White Center, I hope that they are 

aware and come to value this unique attribute of this community. In high school, 

Evergreen had this reputation of being ‘Ghetto’ and I remember hearing about students 

from the more affluent schools being scared to visit our side of town. It's an example of 

reflection of what people outside this community think of White Center, yet during my 

years in high school, we academically outperformed all the other schools in our district. 

I think the wider part of Seattle can learn from communities such as ours. Despite our 

differences of where we come from, like everyone else, we are all just trying to live our 

lives and create the best environment for our children and families. It's very common for 

BIPOC communities to remember where we come and show a deep respect for those 

that came before us. We use this reminder to move us into the future and this is how we 

build a stronger community for our children. I hope White Center continues to value the 

diversity of the community and that BIPOC businesses continue to thrive. Diversity is a 

strength and White Center is an example of this strength and beauty.

End of Narrative

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