Local

May 18, 2012

Finding purpose, finding community

By Maj Mae-Li Allison
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Leong Madarang, computer systems manager for the 99th Force Support Squadron, poses for a photo with his mentor of 16 years, Rozita Lee. Lee serves on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and was the guest speaker at the base’s May 4 Asian-Pacific American Heritage Luncheon.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — 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.

“I surprised even myself; I’m a quiet guy,” 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 Associations’ Las Vegas Chapter. He is also on the planning committee for the base’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 Madarang’s friend and mentor, Rozita Lee, served as the guest speaker.

Lee, who owns a consulting firm and serves on President Obama’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.

“You don’t necessarily have to be a professional teacher to teach,” said Lee. “I always knew I wanted to be of service to the community, so while serving in  different jobs, I’ve also tried to be a teacher to others.”

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.  Lee had just begun a chapter in Las Vegas, and needed help to grow its membership. She fondly remembers Madarang’s timid nature, dependability and enthusiasm.

“When I first met him, he was so shy,” Lee said. “But I had confidence in Leon and wanted to build him up. Foremost, I noticed his willingness to help; he didn’t scatter when I asked for volunteers. He was dependable and had an attitude that he could get anything done.”

With Lee’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 Nellis’ 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 year’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.

“She is definitely a mentor to me,” he added. “I call her ‘Mama Rozita.”

There is no doubt that ‘Mama Rozita’ is also proud of Madarang, and she feels their meeting was meant to be.

“There are no coincidences,” said Lee. “It was meant that I would meet Leon and he would be like a son to me.”




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