Duy Bui: Returning to change the narrative

Alumnus Duy Bui arranges his clothing for sale at a pop-up shop he attended. He loves to connect with community members at these events. (Photo courtesy of Duy Bui)

Alumnus Duy Bui arranges his clothing for sale at a pop-up shop he attended. He loves to connect with community members at these events. (Photo courtesy of Duy Bui)

Duy Bui has had a presence at McDaniel since being the class of 2019’s student body president. Duy was an athlete, entrepreneur and lively community member in his high school days, but one thing sets him apart from the rest of his class: he’s still here.

He originally came back to help coach track, but quickly became involved with many facets of the community.

“I want to put back my time and effort because McDaniel/Madison built the person that I am today,” Duy explained. “Without all the character development, like if I went to any other high school, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.”

Quentin Stellpflug, a cross country and track runner, has been coached by Duy for over three years. He appreciates the dedication that Duy has to the team and the ripple effect that has on their performance.

“He’s there [at practice] more than most of the athletes,” Stellpflug said. “It shows he really cares about it. Then we can know he cares about it and so we care a little bit too and work hard.”

Duy has remained a part of the community in many ways: working security at athletics events, helping out in the weight room after school, coaching sports teams, and doing off-season training. However, external pressures on him made it a difficult journey.

“After high school, there was like a stigma,” Duy said. “I came back to help and coach, right, and others saw that as, ‘Oh this guy can’t leave high school,’ but at the end of the day, me coming back was just to help out the community, help out the kids.”

Duy experienced some hardships as a child that contributed to his desire to be a supporting figure; he was born in Vietnam and moved to the United States when he was three years old. He often found himself behind in English and related classes in school, but he persevered.

“My mom always told me when I was young, ‘As an immigrant, you have to work a little harder than other folks,’” Duy recalled. “That’s when I really started pushing myself even when I was young. I didn’t half-*ss anything, I was always trying my best.”

But it wasn’t just him he had to look out for. Even as a kid, Duy bore some of the familial responsibilities. His younger sister, Nina Bui, was appreciative of his contributions to the family.

“Ever since he was little, he’s been helping our family a lot, with translation and like, just a big help in general,” Nina described. “Without him, I feel like our family would be struggling a lot.”

He was exceptionally thankful for his parents’ role in his life and felt it was his duty as a son to help nurture his siblings and provide for his family.

“I want to give back to my parents, it’s my thank you back to my parents because they’ve done so much for me,” Duy said. “I’m playing my part as a big brother so my parents have to do less, it’s my way of saying I love you to them.” 

As Duy got older, he was exposed to new activities such as basketball.

“After Damian Lillard’s first buzzer-beater against New Orleans, I practiced basketball like two to three hours a day, non-stop.”

He was a dedicated basketball player through freshman year, but the athletics culture and coaching quickly wore on him.

“My sophomore year of basketball, I really hated it,” Duy confessed. A month into conditioning, a coach still didn’t even know his name.

Duy was motivated by this experience, striving to become the coach he wasn’t lucky enough to have: he wants to be someone students and athletes feel supported and respected by.

“All these kids, they wake up every day and they go to school, but they have something to look forward to,” Duy added. “I want them to see me like, ‘Wow, he’s here to try and help us get better and he cares about us.’” 

Much of his time was spent volunteering during the summer at off-season workouts with cross country and during the school year in the weight room, on top of his other commitments.

“I like to make time for my athletes, even if I’m in college and double-majoring in math and psychology, even if I’m doing my side business, even if I’m doing pop-up shops, I always have time,” Duy said. “If someone really cares, I’ll always put time into them.”

This is important for athletes whose regular-season coaches might not be available during the summer or off-season for training plans or motivation.

Stellpflug has received a lot of coaching from Duy over the years. 

“He’s very motivational with supporting you and what you’re doing. He pushes me harder and seems to know what we need to improve,” Stellpflug said.

Coaching isn’t the only place where Duy excels: he is well known for his side businesses, including clothing resale. Done primarily through his Instagram, @dooeybooe, but also at various pop-up shops around Portland, he is able to interact with the community and make money at the same time.

As seen in his Instagram handle, Duy is known to many as “Dooey.” He explained the story of this different name.

“So, my name is Duy [pronounced “yui,” one syllable], but when I was young I got so tired of correcting it. There was one day where my first grade teacher, who I adored the most, she called me ‘Dooey’ and I was like, ‘Oh, I kinda like the sound of it. I might as well go with it.’ That’s why I went with Dooey.”

For Duy, this was perfect.

“The Vietnamese meaning of Duy is ‘the first’. ‘Duy’ is like the only one, it felt special,” he noted. “When it got translated to English, I still felt special because the name just resonates. My first name and my last name kinda rhyme, ‘Dooey Bui’. There’s not a lot of Dooey Bui’s around here so even that, there’s a connection with the Vietnamese and English pronunciation because I literally am the only one.”

Whether he’s known as Duy or Dooey, expect him to stick around. Duy plans to return to teach here, in part due to a very influential teacher he had while in high school.

Duy and his sister Nina Buy pose for a picture at Duy’s eighth grade graduation. The pair has always been tightknit. (Photo courtesy of Duy Bui)

Ryan Ghan, a social studies teacher, taught and mentored Duy during and after high school. 

“Mr. Ghan was a really big impact, he was like another father figure to me,” Duy said. “I was just so, ‘I don’t know what to do with my life’ or ‘I don’t know what’s next’, and he kept me motivated and kept pushing me and kept me moving forward.”

Ghan hopes that Duy follows through on his plans to teach here and carry on that mentorship role.

“He has talked about being a math teacher and working here…that would be the best possible thing for this community,” Ghan remarked. 

Duy is prepared to do what it takes to help students realize their worth and change people’s perceptions of our school.

“I see potential in every one of my athletes, every student at McDaniel,” Duy began. “We have a bad rep, and that’s super unfair to us. People used to refer to McDaniel/Madison as ghetto, and I think that’s very demeaning. I want to leave these kids knowing that they’re more than any of the stigma that’s brought around them and that they’re all good kids. They have a future, they have something to look forward to. If they’re lost, there’s always a path, so that’s what I want to help them understand.”

Though Duy frequently undersells his success, his sister is proud of his work and appreciative of his impact on the community and his family.

“Don’t tell him I said this, but I think he’s, like, really accomplished with his life,” Nina said.  “He knows so many people, his clothes selling, his side gigs, he’s a good person, and I’m grateful that he’s my brother. He is doing a lot for me and our family, and just people around him too. I support everything he does and I’ll be there for him.”