Thao Nguyen

San Diego College of Continuing Education

Nominated in 2021


Thao grew up in Vietnam. She moved permanently to the United States in February 2017 and started studying at San Diego College of Continuing Education soon after. You will never see Thao without a smile on her face. She is such a vibrant individual that brings so much joy and positivity to the people around her. She is an amazing, dedicated, engaged, and collaborative student. In my Advanced VESL class at SDCCE, she was always the first student to arrive and the last to leave. She was very inquisitive and asked excellent questions that helped her improve her English quickly. She worked well with her classmates, and she was sure to be found in the classroom or hallways helping someone or discussing course content.

After completing our highest ESL Transition to College class and our Advanced Pre-Vocational ESL class, Thao applied for credit classes at Mesa College. She was initially reluctant and nervous about applying because she felt she needed to improve her English listening skills. However, with her perseverance, she succeeded, graduating in just two years with her Associate of Science: Architecture Technician degree with High Honors! She ultimately wants to be an architect assistant, so her next step in reaching that goal is to get an Associate of Science Degree in Architecture Design and then transfer to Cal Poly Pomona for a bachelor's degree in Architecture. After diligently researching Architecture programs at other universities in Southern California, she has decided this is the best, most affordable program for her.

Shortly after arriving to the US, Thao got a job in housekeeping in a local San Diego hotel. After she had gained confidence and improved her English through classes at SDCCE, she applied for a job at a tax office. She now works part-time at the tax office and is responsible for bookkeeping and answering the phone.

The road to success has not always been easy for Thao. She initially came to the U.S in 2015 to improve her life, but just a few months later, her dreams were put on hold due to her mother's illness. She returned to Vietnam to help take care of her mother until she passed away in 2017. And most recently, Thao and her family have experienced hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her hours at work have been reduced, so she has struggled to pay her bills on time. This has caused tremendous stress, often leading to anxiety and depression. However, Thao has managed to keep her part-time bookkeeping job in a tax office, graduate with her AA degree with High Honors, apply to an Architecture Design program, and take care of her family members, all while dealing with additional challenges that came with the pandemic.

Thao's hard work and determination is seen by all, and she has been an inspiration and help to many. Because of her dedication to her studies, she inspired her older sister to also join classes at San Diego College of Continuing Education. In these classes, her sister improved her language skills, developed confidence, and made connections with the community. Additionally, Thao continues to be of support to her classmates on the credit side by sharing architecture drawing tips or making models.

Thao is an outstanding example of what is possible when you work hard, stay positive, and keep your eye on the target. She is very appreciative of the support she's received from her classmates and teachers at SDCCE. And she loves to express that gratitude with her marvelous baking skills — Tiramisu. . . Passion Fruit Cheesecake. . . she can make it all!

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