Toan Lam Inspires Goodness Through Storytelling and Teaching
Telling stories is Toan Lam’s talent. But after eight years as a TV reporter covering so much death and destruction, he realized it was time for a change. So Lam, an instructor at Academy of Art University’s School of Multimedia Communications, founded “Go Inspire Go,” a nonprofit dedicated to sharing the work of “everyday heroes” across the country.
One story took him to New York to meet a bus driver who feeds 150 people after work every day, while another brought him to Los Angeles to interview a man who donated his house to a homeless family.
“Go Inspire Go, inspires us all!” said Jan Yanehiro, director of the School of Multimedia Communications. “Stories on everyday people doing extraordinary things simply need to be shared.”
The project started as a YouTube series and eventually grew into a robust website, which features an array of inspiring stories on a multitude of platforms. Sections include “Community Heroes,” which showcases schoolchildren learning to be helpful citizens; the “50/50” project, which will eventually spotlight an “everyday hero” in all 50 states; and “Tea With Toan”—an intimate talk show style series inspired by his grandmother.
“She was one of the most spiritual people I have ever known,” said Lam. “She taught me the ways of the world through spiritual teachings—doing good for other people, not taking more than you need. She was poor her whole life, but she was rich in spirit.”
The spiritual foundation Lam learned from his grandmother compels him to direct his life toward impacting the world through goodness. For Lam, it’s through storytelling, but he wants to help others find their own talents too. He’s doing this through “Go Inspire Go,” but also through teaching. Every Wednesday he teaches COM 303, where students learn how to build a blog from the ground up.
The class has helped launch the careers of a few students, including Ricky Zona, whose project Techibeats.com started as a blog about underground DJs and morphed into a popular site for the electronic music scene. Leanzy Peterson’s blog, The gLossiP Spot, helped her land her own show Like Napa! With Leanzy on Napa Valley TV. Another student recently sent Lam a thank you note expressing his gratitude for pushing him to go beyond his potential.
“That makes me want to tear up,” Lam shared. “To have this kid who felt like he had no potential and didn’t matter, to feel like he matters and is doing good for himself. That’s amazing.”
One morning last month, Lam was wrapping up the first class of the new semester when a student approached him and said, “Nobody’s ever asked me what my passion was, you’re the first. Could you please push me really hard this semester because I really want you to help it come out of me.” Moments like this confirm for Lam that he’s on the right path—the path toward achieving his own potential as a storyteller, and the path toward helping others discover their own talents.
“Everyone has the power to [do] good,” he said. “You don’t have to look a certain way, or have a certain amount of money. Hold the door for somebody. If you want to volunteer and you love reading go read to kids. It’s that simple. If you just do something—that ripples out to big changes. And that’s really what ‘Go Inspire Go’ is about, it’s about small things that ripple out to big changes.”