BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — The vice-mayor of Boynton Beach is opening up about what led him to enter the arena of politics during this month of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Ty Penserga is the only current Asian American elected official in Palm Beach County.
Penserga shared pictures of his family and talked about how intense school was when he was growing up in the Philippines.
"My family is from the Island of Leyte in the Philippines. That is the island right smack dab in the middle of the country. I grew up with my grandparents. My mom was already in America,” said Penserga. "It was all day. It was all-day schooling. Discipline was a big deal. You don't leave until everything is done, and you were still in school until like four or five. So that was part of the regimen, and everybody speaks multiple languages."
One of those languages is English. Which benefited him once he joined his mother here in South Florida at the age of seven. Penserga attended Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach. At the age of 17, he published his first research paper. Penserga would then move to Philadelphia and attend Temple University. Earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and science. The subjects he currently teaches at his high school alma mater.
But another passion developed while Penserga was attending the university. He witnessed Asian Americans being attacked for no reason.
"They all felt helpless. They didn't know why they were under attack. But I realized nobody's coming. Who is coming? Where is our Jessie Jackson? Where is our Reverend Al Sharpton that's coming to lead a protest and push people to make changes? Nobody came, and when that hit me, A, it was really sad, and B, it lit a fire under me,” said Penserga.
A fire that ignited him to enter the arena of local politics. In 2018 he was elected as city commissioner and in March of 2020 elected as vice-mayor.
He aims to create equitable growth and a long-term vision that revitalizes Boynton Beach.
"Where, not just that people love living here, but they can find high-paying decent-paying jobs and want to stay in the city,” said Penserga.
As he strives to accomplish that, he continues to mentor and uplift the next generation.
“I wanted to let kids know that science is not just for the "smart kids"; it's for everybody,” said Penserga.