The path to success Jessica Lee
SYLP student

Born and raised in Saigon, Vietnam, she came to the United States all by herself when she was only 17 years old. With no extra money and knowing no Vietnamese people in the States, she learned to speak English and graduated from Nathan Hale High School only two years after arriving.

She lived with an adoptive family. Her parents and 10 siblings were still in Saigon. What was she supposed to do? Leave them there during the midst of the Vietnam War?

She decided that it would be cowardly if she didn’t try to find success in the United States and bring her family over to America for their safety.

She attended Seattle Central Community College and majored in biochemistry, which, for her, was the easiest thing to learn. She had to drop out after only two years due to lack of money. Her adoptive family had left her to fight the world by herself. The only money she made was through working at a grocery store in Chinatown.

By then, she had lost all hope. She thought that, with no education, she would never be able to get a job to save enough money to bring her family over.

After several months of barely surviving, a miracle occurred. A Japanese American woman who was buying groceries at the store she worked at discovered her story. This Japanese woman ran a lab at the University of Washington and offered her a job.

She doubted herself because she had no education in pathology, which was the field of science the lab was focused on. Despite the hardships, she was determined to work hard to be successful. She read books about pathology and its background every day, and although she struggled, she never gave up.

Finally, after two years, she was able to successfully bring all 12 members of her family to the United States to live with her.

Who is this woman? This amazing, persevering woman is my mother. She is now 50 years old, and it has been 20 years since her family came here. My mother still works at the pathology lab and has been a head research scientist studying Werner Syndrome for about 15 years.

During the three weeks of the Summer Youth Leadership Program, many well-known Asian Americans came in and talked to the SYLP participants about their path to success. One of the main themes of their words of wisdom is that success does not come easily and if you want something badly enough, then you must go and chase after it.

After I heard these words, I instantly made the connection to my mother’s story. She had to work extremely hard to bring her family from Vietnam to the United States and, even though she faced extreme calamities, nothing ever stopped her from going after what she truly wanted. ♦

Editor’s note: Northwest Asian Weekly was unable to verify all the facts stated in this article. The ideas here do not necessarily represent our stance.

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