2015 Kao Soua Yang

Kao Soua’s family has always lived in poverty. Originally from Laos, her family spent ten years in a Thai refugee camp before immigrating to the United States in 2005 in search of a better life. But illness soon fell upon both of her parents, preventing them from being able to work and bring home wages to support their six children. In order to survive, the family began to rely on subsidized health care, free and reduced school lunch, public housing, and other government assistance programs in addition to food shelves at a local church. They also relied on Kao Soua. She took on after-school jobs, cleaning, paying bills, cooking, and looking after her parents and younger siblings.

Kao Soua’s family faces many struggles, but she has never let them interfere with her education. Today, she is enrolled full time as a post-secondary student at St. Paul College. She exhausted Johnson Senior High School’s most rigorous course offerings and achieved a 3.99 GPA. She was inducted into the National Honor Society, named an Advanced Placement Scholar by the College Board, and has received other prestigious awards for her work, including from the American Psychological Association. When she isn’t studying or caring for her family, Kao Soua involves herself in activities, which have included Honor Guard, working at the local library, and playing her favorite sport, badminton.

Her family motivates her to succeed in school – and in life. “Focus on your education and get a good career to help yourself,” her father has told her. Teachers, friends, and her College Possible coach have helped and cheered her along the way, too. Kao Soua says that her motivation comes from within as well. At times emotionally and physically exhausted, Kao Soua perseveres and tells herself not to give up. “I want to live a life different from and better than that of my parents. I want to graduate college, get a good career, and earn more than enough money to support myself and my family.”

Kao Soua is on track to achieve her dreams. The engineering classes she took at Johnson Senior High School have inspired her to pursue a Bachelor’s – and one day a Master’s – degree in the field. She wants to travel, too, and plans to study abroad.

“I survived the darkest moments of my life,” says Kao Soua. Today, her future looks bright.