ORLANDO, Fla. — Experiences sometimes change what a person plans to do with his or her life, and Nina Yon says that can require defying others’ expectations.

For her, that time came during a mission trip to Guatemala — something that was never part of her life's plan to ascend the corporate ladder in hotel management.

What You Need To Know

  • Nina Yon was working toward a corporate job in hotel management until she went on a mission trip to Guatemala

  • She says the experience sparked a desire in her to redirect her career plans toward working for a nonprofit

  • Yon is now the president and CEO of The Sharing Center in Longwood

  • She said she wants to encourage other Asian women to take on leadership roles, particularly in nonprofits

Born and raised in Taiwan, Yon says education was the expectation — and she was told that one does not leave a good job.

“I just felt called to do something very different with my life," she said. “I did not have my parents’ blessing. They wanted me to stay stateside, find a good husband and get married. It weighed on me."

It took a testimonial at her parents' Chinese church to win them over. Yon said it had the congregation in tears.

After two more years of missions, Yon says she was convinced that her life's work would shift to nonprofits.

She now serves as president and CEO of The Sharing Center in Longwood, a respite and "oasis" for those who may have a home — or more than likely, do not.

Yon has facilitated big moments at The Sharing Center, like a $1 million gift from the Heart of Florida United Way, which doubled the usable space for the nonprofit.

At other times, her focus is on the bump and hum of washing machines or on the volunteers that stuff to-go bags with easy-to-eat, protein-packed items. 

“We are heavily, heavily dependent on volunteers," she said. “I want to give back. I want to bless others because I am blessed with so much."

Yon is now also putting in long hours studying at the University of Central Florida's downtown campus library, in summer school for a program that will fuel her new life plan working in nonprofit management.

According to UCF, it's a degree track that continues to rank as one of the university's "most nationally competitive graduate degree programs," coming in at No. 18 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24.

Yon said that she wants to encourage others to lead — in particular, other Asian women.

She says that few are in roles like hers in Central Florida.

“In my culture, women are not typically perceived to be a leader, leadership role,” Yon said. “I think I had a little self-doubt in my mind. We need to have a stronger representation of Asians in leadership roles, nonprofit, for-profit. We need to represent our culture, our background."