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Welcome to The FWCS Visionary: A public blog and monthly newsletter brought to you by the Public Affairs Department and designed to provide you with news about Fort Wayne Community Schools. This is the inaugural year for this new information outlet and, as such, it may change shape and form as it grows into a resource we hope you find useful and fun. If you have any suggestions for what you would like to see in the outlet, please contact Public Affairs. We would be thrilled to hear what you want to see.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2018

North Side grads turn adversity into opportunity

Five of North Side’s top 10 graduates

At age 4, Naw Sar Do was hiding in a Burmese forest, with her family and neighbors, from soldiers looking to execute villagers.

On June 8, she’ll cross a stage at Memorial Coliseum as one of North Side High School’s top 10 graduates. The school will graduate 378 students this year.

Five of North Side’s 2018 top 10 graduates were born in other countries.  The students all arrived in the United States at different ages and most have tales of adversity and/or struggle to share.

Those top 10 students are

4th - Carol Galicia, born in the Philippines

5th - Niang Chin, born in Burma

6th - Naw Sar Do, born in Burma

9th - Aung Oo, born in Thailand, but raised in Burma

10th - Sen Nu, born in Burma

Naw Sar Do

Naw Sar Do, who is ranked sixth, was approaching 13 years old and spoke no English when she landed in the U.S.

“Although moving to the United States was a huge blessing, I was also afraid of not knowing English and the challenges of adapting into the new culture,” she said in an essay.

She credits several programs, including her English Language Learner (ELL) teachers at FWCS, with helping her succeed.

“These were difficult years, but with the many supports I received, I learned to live in the United States well and I learned to do well in school.”

It was her appreciation for an education, a scarce commodity in her homeland, which drove her desire to take advantage of honors classes and dual-credit courses.

Naw Sar Do

Naw Sar Do

“These classes were challenging, but I had supportive teachers and friends who are there to help me,” she wrote. “With the many opportunities and supports that I received, I too can become a productive member of society and help others who need help.”

She will attend Indiana University Bloomington with plans to go to medical school.

Carol Galicia

Carol Galicia has a different story to tell. Born in the Philippines, she moved to the United States as an infant.

“I have only lived in the Philippines for a total of 6 months of my life,” she wrote. “Two month-long vacations and 4 months as a newborn baby.”

“The two things that got me into the top 10 were competition, and my stable household,” she continued. “I was able to focus on school and other hobbies because my parents and older brothers did everything for me…I am not in the top 10 because I am smarter, I am in the top 10 because I was lucky.”

Her parents fueled her intellect from a young age, watching with her criminal justice shows, forensic cases  and, her favorite, National Geographic documentaries. A second factor in Carol’s drive to do so well was her peer group.

Carol Galicia

Carol Galicia

“Around middle school, I found myself in a friend group of all the right people,” she wrote. “We were top 5 back then, and we’re still top 5 now. We pushed each other and bettered ourselves. Our GPA and class rank became a friendly race.”

She will attend the University of St. Francis on a full-ride tuition scholarship and eventually go on to medical school.

Niang Chin

When Niang Chin looks back at the time and place she was born, she realizes even the most basic education wasn’t possible.

On June 8, she’ll walk across the stage as a member not only of the top 10, but the top 5 of her graduating class.

“We were poor and lived in a remote village in Myanmar (formerly Burma), so getting access to higher education was difficult,” she wrote. Nevertheless, she always wanted to pursue becoming a doctor.

Her family moved as refugees to Malaysia, where they stayed for three years without any education available. Through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the family was informed they were selected to move to the United States.

Niang Chin

Niang Chin

Upon arrival, they struggled with the language barrier, the cold weather and, she and her siblings struggled with school. After three years with no education, they found themselves placed in grade levels based on their ages, she was 10 at the time and placed in fourth grade.

Thanks to other Burmese students, ELL teachers and her own perseverance, Niang was able to thrive.

“Although school assignments were tough for me, I always remind myself all my goals and dreams and that (kept) me going strong,” she wrote. By eighth grade, she scored as high as possible on the test that showed improvement in her ELL classes. By the time she left Northwood Middle School, she had the highest GPA at the school.

Bearing witness to what happens when education is kept from people, who are subsequently impoverished, is what pushes her to pursue her dream of being a doctor.

“Low-income families face discrimination everywhere and develop severe illness from the harsh environment they live in,” she wrote. “The worst thing that happens to low-income families are that many doctors refuse to treat a patient because they don’t have money even though the patient is almost dying.

She will pursue her goal by attending Indiana University Bloomington for pre-med, then medical school.

Aung Oo

Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Aung Oo was raised in a small Burmese city by his grandparents and aunts. His parents worked in Thailand to provide for the family.

At age four, after his brother was born, Aung Oo’s family decided to move to the United States.

“I wasn’t happy I had to leave, I wasn’t happy I had to move so far away,” he said. He didn’t want to leave his grandma.

As a kindergartner, Aung Oo was more easily able to learn the English language.

Aung Oo

Aung Oo

The family eventually landed in Fort Wayne.

Aung Oo didn’t know what to expect when he entered high school, but he knew he was ready to pave his own path. In 10th grade, the first time he saw the top 25 poster for his graduating class, he set himself a goal.

“I knew that I was an above average student, but I didn’t know that I would be ranked that high,” he said. “I soon realized that the top ten get their photos on the posters…I wanted my picture up there too.”

At the end of his junior year, his hard work showed when his name appeared near the top of that list.

“My purpose in life is to keep going, I don’t want to stop succeeding even when I fail,” he wrote. “Whatever the goal is, I’ll make sure I achieve it and I’ll make sure to achieve it well.”

He will attend Purdue University West Lafayette and study engineering.

Sen Nu

Sen Nu Graduate

Sen Nu

Sen Nu’s family left Burma when she was seven or eight years old, and went to Malaysia for a few years. She was 10 when they came to the United States.

“Moving to a new country was not easy since it was a whole new world for my family,” she wrote of her experience.

She was unsure because she didn’t know English, or the customs of this country. Her family struggled to adapt to their adopted country.

“After all, education is something that my parents taught us to give our best for,” she wrote. At night, she would hear her father praying for their safety, wisdom and knowledge.

Sen Nu plans to attend IU Bloomington to study biology and eventually become a doctor.

“It has been my inclination to become a doctor since when I was a child, specifically, a family medicine (doctor),” she wrote.

At school, Sen Nu was quiet. She credits her first elementary school teacher, in Miami, Fla., with helping her feel welcome.

When her family moved to Fort Wayne, friends and teachers, especially ELL teachers, helped her further adapt and learn.

She has done her best in school and worked hard.

While studies are certainly a critical part of what has landed these five students in the top 10, they all also participate in extracurricular activities. Whether it was cross-country, track, tennis, golf, National Honors Society, CANstruction, or organizations that help preserve their culture, each one of them found the time to give something of themselves to activities other than studies.

The five of them agree on one crucial fact about every one: it all begins with you.

“Success is self-driven,” Naw Sar Do said, and if that means asking for help, one should ask for help.

Principal David West expressed pride for these students’ accomplishments.

“Aung, Naw, Sen, Niang and Carol exemplify excellence and perseverance,” he said in an email. “We are extremely proud of our graduating seniors. This class exemplifies diversity and reflects the changing demographics of our city.”

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