- High School: Fowler, Class of 2017
- Major @ OCC: Nursing
Kyaw (pronounced: CHAW) and her parents’ dream of living in the United States came true June 26, 2013 when they arrived in Syracuse from Thailand. They were total strangers. They didn’t know anyone and they didn’t speak English. Nearly four years later to the day, June 25, 2017, Kyaw spoke to her graduating class at Fowler High School as the Valedictorian. How did she go from someone who didn’t know the language to tops in her class? “I studied a lot. I stayed after school every day. I did my homework. I never skipped school. I came to school every day, even if I was sick.”
Kyaw’s first year in Central New York was her most difficult. “I thought, ‘It’s so hard. I can’t make it. I don’t know English. I didn’t understand what people were saying.’” Learning the language was challenging. Words which may have seemed easy to others were not for her. “People would ask me where I went to high school and I would say, ‘flower.’ I confused ‘flower’ and ‘Fowler.’ I would confuse other words like ‘kitchen’ and ‘chicken’ all of the time.”
The learning environments were a huge upgrade compared to Thailand. “Where I am from, school was just one building. There were less teachers and some of them had just graduated from high school. There weren’t any computers either.”
Kyaw excelled at Fowler both as a student and as an athlete. During her senior year she was named Fowler’s top female student-athlete by Section III, the organization which oversees scholastic sports in Central New York.
Kyaw prepared for her freshman year at OCC by taking two college classes over the summer. Now she’s a full-time student majoring in Nursing. Her dream is to return home and help people. “In Thailand so many people are sick. We don’t have medicine and we don’t have enough hospitals there.”
As she works toward her first college degree, Kyaw wants other refugees to know they too can achieve success in the classroom. “Now as I look back I realize what I’ve done. Anybody like me should know they can do it too if they work hard and keep going!”