Irene Chu

Asian American Civic Association

“Dragon Boat shares Chinese culture.  I started out as a racer, and I was asked to coach and committed myself to AACA’s team. Every practice I work them harder than the last time.  But they keep coming back for more. They’re putting in the time and effort, and they’re getting stronger. And it makes them happy. It doesn’t matter if they’re new to the sport. They have fun and they feel like they belong.”

The AACA recognizes Irene Chu for her tenacity in teaching heritage and sparking enthusiasm as coach for the AACA’s “Blazin’ Paddles” Dragon Boat racing team.

Irene learned about dragon boat racing when she first moved to Boston. The sport connected her to her culture, and also welcomed others regardless of race or age. From paddling to drumming, Irene took the lessons and paid it forward as coach for the Asian American Civic Association.

Irene inspires and encourages her team to have fun while giving their all at practice on the Charles River. Dragon Boat racing promotes pride in heritage, sportsmanship, teamwork, fitness and friendship. The team competes in the annual Boston Dragon Boat Festival and has won two gold medals – the most recent in Summer of 2018.

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Special honoree and community hero portraits by

Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Studios