Onchantho Am has dedicated her life and career to serving others, and recently the associate general counsel for the College of Medicine received congressional recognition for her “extraordinary contributions to our community.”

Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost honored Am during a Women’s History Month celebration in March.

“Onchantho’s story of resilience, dedication to service and commitment to advocacy for the APPI community is inspiring,” Congressman Frost said. “Our office is thrilled to help highlight and celebrate her story.”

That story is Am’s inspiration.

Her parents came to the U.S. to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. But the mental scars they had suffered resulted in their children being placed in foster care. One of Am’s first advocacy efforts came as a teen, when she convinced the court system to reunite her siblings under one roof with a foster family. For that reason, she dedicates much of her public service to advocating for children and families.

“I want the next generation to be afforded the opportunities I didn’t have,” she says.

She became the first in her family to attend college, at the University of Florida, and there provided guidance to the Governor and Legislature on services for former and older foster youth. That guidance helped shape new laws on child welfare. She then earned her law degree from Stetson University.

Before joining the College of Medicine, Am served as the first Vice President of Quality and Chief Legal Officer for IMPOWER — a Central Florida-based not-for-profit providing children, adolescents, adults and families with mental health and substance abuse counseling.

She is a leader in Orlando’s legal and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. She is the immediate past president of the Orange County Bar Association Foundation, secretary of the National Association of Asian American Professionals — Orlando Chapter, and past president of the Greater Orlando Asian American Bar Association.  She also co-founded ACT (AAPI Coming Together), an independent, non-partisan group in Central Florida that provides voter education and engagement for underrepresented communities.

Am says she was humbled by the congressional award.

“There is so much more work that needs to be done,” she says. “Each one of us has a story and each one of us has the potential to nudge the world to a better place.”