Nhi, a 2015 graduate of West Ottawa High School, attends Grand Valley University this fall.

When she arrived in Holland in 2011, Nhi spoke scarcely a word of English. Her aunt, a U.S. citizen, had come to visit Nhi’s family in Vietnam and saw how difficult the economic situation was for them. She offered to sponsor the family to come to Holland, Michigan.

Once they arrived, Nhi’s mother and father both found jobs and the family now has Green Cards. But Nhi admits that adjusting to a new and different culture has been very challenging.

Nhi’s parents encouraged her to study hard in high school and to learn English well enough so that one day she might be the first in their family to graduate with a college degree.

Nhi did both those things graduating with A’s and B’s in every subject and speaking English almost fluently.

Nhi credits Hope College Trio’s Upward Bound for helping her to overcome her shyness, a result of being new and in a strange culture. She is also so thankful for the coach they provided to help her with her English.

UB, as she calls it, also prepared her for the college experience and encouraged her become involved in school activities. In her junior year, Nhi was a part of the future Prep’d Academy offered by Gentex Corporation in Holland. The program allows students to see and experience several different career opportunities within businesses and organizations in order to gain useful skills that can be applied to whatever path they may choose to pursue in the future.

In her senior year Nhi also participated in Upward Bound’s Step Up program, mentoring middle school students and helping them with their studies.

Nhi’s career goals at Grand Valley?

Two of Nhi’s uncles have died. In both cases she see saw them in need of critical medical care and and wished she’d had the skills to help more or alleviate their pain and suffering. This lead to the dream Nhi hopes to achieve which is to become a Registered Nurse through Grand Valley’s Nursing Program

Elizabeth Colburn, Director of Hope College Trio Upward Bound had this to say about Michael:

“Nhi’s success in overcoming personal and environmental obstacles — including learning the English language — are an inspiration! Access to a college education is so important to Nhi that she chose to remain in the United States with extended family when her parents decided it would be best to return to Vietnam with her younger sister. Since her family’s return to the U.S., Nhi assumed the responsibility of translator and advocate for the family regarding their educational, medical and housing situations. While dealing with all of this may have seemed overwhelming at times, it never prevented Nhi from achieving an academic record that reflects her commitment to a college education, her school and overall community.”

What does the Holland/Zeeland Promise mean to Nhi?

Though she was awarded two wonderful scholarships — an Upward Bound Scholarship for $750 and a West Ottawa Panther Scholarship for $500 — they were one year scholarships. After that her family would have had to help her take out student loans which might have amounted to close to $50,000. One can only imagine how difficult this would have been for her family in a new culture and with few financial resources.

When Nhi received the long hoped for call from Stacy Timmerman of the Community Foundation — that there were funds enough to include her as a 2015 scholarship recipient — she and her parents were overjoyed. Nhi says one of the first things they did was call her grandparents in Vietnam to tell them the news!

Nhi’s advice for others who face challenges — financial or otherwise — in order to accomplish their dreams:

“No matter how hard life is you don’t give up. Keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to seek help. And learn from your mistakes.”

To learn more about the Holland/Zeeland Promise Scholarship, visit www.cfhz.org/hzpromise