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Vietnamese Newcomer Seizes his American Dream

December 1, 2020 | Jeffrey Good

Vietnamese Newcomer Seizes his American Dream image

Thien Nguyen dreams of becoming a computer software engineer. But just a few months ago it wasn’t clear that he would be able to graduate on time to start his college studies.

Then he found Clark County Acceleration Academy.

Thien, 18, recently became one of the latest graduates from CCAA’s East Campus. His story begins with his mother immigrating with her family from Vietnam a year and a half ago to participate in the “American dream.” She tearfully joined Academy staff in celebrating her son’s graduation.

“This is what I love about America!” exclaimed Ms. Nguyen, who expressed her gratitude for the support her son had received at CCAA, making it possible for him to join the Class of 2020 and attend College of Southern Nevada on schedule in the fall.

“My mom was very emotional, she treated it as a big deal,” Thien said. “My mom didn’t get a chance to finish college and so she just wants me to keep going.”

 His mother wasn’t the only one celebrating; neighbors of the family also gathered outside to cheer Thien on.

“It was very special to have others in his community acknowledge his accomplishment in a time when graduates can’t participate in a regular ceremony,” said CCAA District Director Wendy Thompson. “A neighbor stopped me on the way to my car to say that seeing us out celebrating with our students was ‘a breath of fresh air’ in what had been a weary week.”

“We go to every student’s home to personally acknowledge their accomplishment. This is a major milestone in their life that we want to share with their family as they launch into a new chapter of their lives,” Thompson continued. “We take their diploma, a sign for their yard, a special cookie and a copy of Very Good Lives, J.K. Rowlings’ commencement address at Harvard, along with lots of pictures to send to their family afterward.”

 Thien found Acceleration Academy after transferring in from Coronado High School in the Clark County School District. Learning Thien was short of credits due to his international move, and with the Covid-19 pandemic worsening, his counselor at the time said that CCAA was probably the best option for a personalized, accelerated course of study. He enrolled in late June and graduated in early August.

He completed his program at lightning speed. He credited English language arts content coach Farrah Eichler and career and life coach Natalie Bishop for helping him along the way.

“It’s easier to study online,” Thien explained. “After the course started, everything just went so well for me.”

Thien has two younger sisters, and told his story about how American culture is so different than the culture of his native Vietnam. He added that his mom came here so that her children could have a better education.

“The language barrier, and not knowing how to drive, has been difficult,” said Thien. “When I came to America, I had to learn English, I was forced to use it, no matter what. It’s kind of sad that we’re stuck at home with the pandemic, but I still don’t know how to drive. I’m trying to get money to buy a car. It’s not like that in Vietnam; there are electric bikes for you to ride.”

Thien has already begun classes at the College of Southern Nevada and says he likes his professors. He offered a piece of advice for new graduation candidates just starting their program.

“If they’re in a situation like me, reach out for help, the coaches can help you, don’t mind asking questions,” Thien said. “Email them, they can help you.”

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