University of Washington freshman and former Educational Talent Search (ETS) student My Ta was named a 2012 recipient of the Friends of the Northwest Association of Educational Opportunity Programs (NAEOP) Scholastic Achievement Award.
Ta received a $1,500 scholarship awarded annually to exceptional students who participate in a federally-funded TRiO program and overcome barriers to achieve academic success. The Friends of NAEOP assists low-income and first-generation students, as well as students with disabilities, in their pursuit of higher education.
Despite facing language and cultural hurdles after immigrating to the United States from Vietnam at the age of 14, Ta worked tirelessly to succeed in school, adapt to a new way of life and achieve her goal of attending college. Her acceptance to the UW last spring was a dream-come true not only for Ta, but for her father as well.
“It was the first time I’d seen him cry,” she said.
Ta credits this success to her involvement in OMA&D’s Talent Search, a grant-funded program designed to assist economically and educationally disadvantaged middle and high school students prepare for college. She joined the program as an eighth-grader at Totem Middle School in Marysville, Wash., and worked closely with Talent Search associate director Rob Leatherman through her graduation from the Marysville Academy of Construction and Engineering.
“My has just been an absolutely remarkable student,” Leatherman said. “I could really tell when I began meeting with her as a junior, she was really the ideal student that a program like ours was designed to try to find.”
As those meetings progressed, Leatherman learned more about Ta’s story, and what she dealt with on a daily basis. She excelled in classes like AP calculus and physics, however she was still learning English at the same time. During class, Ta wrote down everything her teachers wrote on the board and came home each night to translate it to Vietnamese, sometimes staying up until midnight to complete her homework assignments. She was also still adjusting to life in a new country following the abrupt move from Vietnam.
“That was a really difficult time for me,” she said. “To go to school and not know anything, I was kind of sad and upset with myself.”
Ta persevered through academic and social challenges to graduate from high school with a 3.8 grade point average. Now just a few weeks into her first quarter at UW, she continues to meet a new set of challenges that come with being a college student.
“I think everything is okay right now, but I still have to spend a lot of time learning new vocab to catch up with my classmates,” she said. “I still feel like I’m far away, but I’m trying.”
Ta’s family, which includes a younger brother and sister, recently moved from Marysville to Everett to cut down her commute to UW. Her parents have started to speak English, but she helps translate for them.
Ta’s next goal is to study health sciences and become a nurse, a dream that stemmed following her grandmother’s death.
“She had cancer and passed away,” she said. “At that time, we didn’t really know anything. We didn’t have the technology to help her out. I want to be a nurse, because I want to help people.”
Ta’s ambitions don’t end there.
“I would also like to find a way to help others like me who want to succeed but face language or cultural barriers that prevent them from doing so.”
Visit OMA&D’s Educational Talent Search web site to learn more about the program, including which schools ETS serves in Western and Eastern Washington.