I AM UAA: Padee Vang

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Elementary Education, Class of 2015
Hometown: Anchorage, AK
Fun Fact: Wants to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters

I AM UAA Padee Vang

UAA freshman Padee Vang moved to Anchorage in the fourth grade. Scary as moving to a new state can be for such a young child, Padee's challenges were compounded by the fact that English was not her first language. She and her family spoke Hmong and even now-a Bartlett High School graduate ending her high school career as a National Honor Society member-she remembers the challenges of growing up learning a second language while assimilating into a new community and culture.

"My parents are immigrants and didn't know how to speak English when they moved to California," says Padee, whose father is from Laos and mother is from Thailand. "Growing up learning two languages was very difficult. Strategies I used to help were by reading a lot and journaling and free writing. That's what made me decide I wanted to work with other immigrants learning English; we all share this same challenge."

Her firsthand experience sparked in her a natural instinct to want to help.

"My goal is to graduate with a bachelor's degree to become an elementary education teacher and librarian so I can teach immigrant children in my community how to read, write and speak English," she says.

Kids, in particular, are whom she especially has a soft spot for. The oldest of eight children in her family, she is drawn to helping nurture and educate those younger than her.

"I love to help kids," she says. "I want to take care of them and help them be responsible; I like to teach them how to dance and sing, and I enjoy doing projects and crafts with them. I just want to be a person who children can turn to and be there for them."

Lucky for Alaska, Padee already has her sights set on the Anchorage School District and plans to get her master's in library science to round out her dream. And even though she is a first-generation college student, her parents always encouraged higher education.

"When I was a little girl at the age of 7, I was already thinking about college but I didn't really know what that meant," she says. "My parents said to enjoy the journey getting to and through college and it would prepare me for a job. So I started to understand and would always feel a certain hope inside me when I heard people talking about going to college."

Padee has arrived and is embarking on her journey. The second semester into her studies and she admits classes are challenging, but she always reminds herself that part of her journey is to help her parents.

"I want to find a job to help support them like they've supported me," says Padee, referring to finding a student job on campus while she's a student, in addition to her future dreams of becoming a teacher.

Luckily, UAA can help Padee help her family. She is one recipient of the Seawolf Opportunities Scholarship (SOS), a four-year award granted to first-generation college students that is made possible from a $5M anonymous donation to UAA in 2008.

"It is very valuable," Padee says of the SOS award. "I'm so thankful they picked me; it helped me and my family out a lot. I was crying from happiness when I found out. I love Alaska, and I chose to attend UAA because I want to live and work here."

UAA had a major that was a good match for Padee's goals. And Padee will be a good match for the Alaska community once she has her degree in hand and can put her aspirations to work in the classroom.

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