Anh Pham immigrated to the U.S. from Viet Nam with her family in 1975 after the end of the war. Her family raised her with a strong sense of community service and she taught Sunday school to toddlers at the first Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Minnesota. In high school she participated in Amnesty International where she attended a protest against the Persian Gulf War, conscious of the impact of war and separation on her own family. Upon entering the University of Minnesota, she was active in the local MPIRG (MN Public Interest Research Group) chapter and then worked with the YWCA, which included chaperoning a group of at-risk young girls to study border issues between the US-Mexico at El-Paso and Juarez, Mexico. That same summer she also became active in the Progressive Student Organization and went to Cuba to the World Youth and Student Festival. She was also active in student governance and served on the Student Services Fees Committee.