Decades after immigrating, Connie Flores has found Where She Belongs

Story by Amanda Nappi

When Connie Flores was a child, she didn’t always feel like she belonged.

Her family moved every few years to find better opportunities, living everywhere from California to Texas to the East Coast. And diversity back then, as she points out, was very different than it is in 2024.

“When you’re that young and you don’t look like the people around you, you feel a lot like an outsider,” says Flores, a Lean sensei.

Flores’ parents fled Vietnam after the war on a refugee boat when she was just two years old. They spoke only Vietnamese at home, in part to maintain a piece of her heritage. She also acted as a translator.

“As a child, I didn’t understand why, because it separated me even more from my friends. When we were all together, I would turn around and speak Vietnamese to my parents and get made fun of,” she remembers.

But she quickly laughs because her children have a very different experience.

“We speak English at home, but my two kids have friends from many cultural backgrounds, and now they ask why we don’t speak Vietnamese!” she says.

Finding belonging

Many of these memories surfaced for Flores when Hartford HealthCare introduced Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs) to foster connections among colleagues with similar cultural backgrounds. The application process included a 100-word essay on why you wanted to be part of the group.

“Writing the essay, I actually got emotional. It helped me reflect back on my life,” Flores says. “I remember writing I’d love to be part of a CRG because it would be the first time I could share my voice and not have to put a filter on it. I could be myself, share who I am and be proud.”

A member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander CRG, Flores helps lead initiatives like support of the Riverfront Dragon Boat & Asian Festival and conversation around issues like the Asian hate crimes.

The work culminated for Flores last year at the launch of Hartford HealthCare’s Center for Equity.

“That day, that moment, was the first time I actually felt like I found my place. Listening to everyone’s stories and being in a room with people from different backgrounds and cultures, and having it be celebrated,” she says.

“It all came together for me — I felt like I belong here.”