2007 Choua Yang

Choua Yang, a senior at Patrick Henry High School, admits that there were times she wanted to "give up" on herself, and her future. But when she thought of creating a better life for herself and her daughter, she knew she had to overcome the abuse, poverty, and family health problems that would have derailed the lives of so many young people.

As a member of a traditional Hmong immigrant family, Choua was culturally married at age 15. Soon pregnant, she found herself living with her new family and a controlling husband who repeatedly abused her both physically and psychologically. Isolated from friends and family, her school work suffered, and she constantly worried about the effects of the abuse on her daughter. Somehow, she found the strength to leave her husband and with her daughter move back with her own family. Because her own father had a stroke several years ago, and her mother is unable to work, she got a part time job to help support her financially-struggling family.

Far from being embittered by all her difficult experiences, she worked hard at school to earn a 3.45 grade point average in a rigorous International Baccalaureate program, while doing extra work to make up for the time she was absent to have her baby. She also joined the Badminton team and the Yearbook Club, and began tutoring elementary students. Even more, she mentors a young girl through Big Brothers Big Sisters. All the while she takes joy in caring for her daughter. Her nominator observed that Choua "will not just get by in life; she will excel." Choua plans to study either business or pharmacy at the University of Minnesota. She says, "I know now that with the strength I found in myself, I will be able to get through anything."