NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. â€” At first glance it may seem unlikely that a shy computer technician would become a leader and mentor at Nellis Air Force Base and within the Las Vegas Filipino-American community, but with some self-initiative and the encouragement of others, Leon Madarang of the 99th Force Support Squadron did just that.
â€œI surprised even myself; Iâ€™m a quiet guy,â€ said Madarang, a retired Master Sgt. who is now a youth leader at the Nellis Chapel and active member of the National Federation of Filipino American Associationsâ€™ Las Vegas Chapter. He is also on the planning committee for the baseâ€™s Asian-Pacific American Heritage month events, the first of which was a successful luncheon May 4 at The Club. It was at this luncheon that Madarangâ€™s friend and mentor, Rozita Lee, served as the guest speaker.
Lee, who owns a consulting firm and serves on President Obamaâ€™s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said her dream while growing up in Hawaii had always been to teach and assist others in achieving their goals.
â€œYou donâ€™t necessarily have to be a professional teacher to teach,â€ said Lee. â€œI always knew I wanted to be of service to the community, so while serving inÂ different jobs, Iâ€™ve also tried to be a teacher to others.â€
Lee and Madarang met in 1996 when Madarang finally stepped out of his comfort zone while working at Nellis as a Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of personnel systems, taking the initiative to join the local National Federation of Filipino American Associations group.Â Lee had just begun a chapter in Las Vegas, and needed help to grow its membership. She fondly remembers Madarangâ€™s timid nature, dependability and enthusiasm.
â€œWhen I first met him, he was so shy,â€ Lee said. â€œBut I had confidence in Leon and wanted to build him up. Foremost, I noticed his willingness to help; he didnâ€™t scatter when I asked for volunteers. He was dependable and had an attitude that he could get anything done.â€
With Leeâ€™s encouragement and mentorship, Madarang rose to become an outspoken marketing chief of the local National Federation of Filipino American Associations chapter, as well as headed up Nellisâ€™ Asian-Pacific American Heritage events for the following 10 years. Lee has also just recently stepped up at the Nellis Chapel to be a youth leader for the Catholic parish.
When asked about why Lee was asked to speak at this yearâ€™s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Luncheon, Madarang said with a smile that Lee was the perfect example of an Asian-American leader and role model, and it was even better that she had risen to leadership right here in Las Vegas.
â€œShe is definitely a mentor to me,â€ he added. â€œI call her â€˜Mama Rozita.â€
There is no doubt that â€˜Mama Rozitaâ€™ is also proud of Madarang, and she feels their meeting was meant to be.
â€œThere are no coincidences,â€ said Lee. â€œIt was meant that I would meet Leon and he would be like a son to me.â€