Soaring to new heights

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Posted Sat, Apr 25, 2015

Houa Vang from Northglenn, Colo.

“I love to fly.” — Houa Vang [Photo by Tia Terlaje]

DENVER – Everyone knows the cost for higher education is on the rise. From tuition increases to mandatory fees, students are faced with financial challenges before they even attend their first day of class.

The increasing cost of living, especially in Denver-metro area, is also a factor to those who may be considering college. Knowing these facts alone can discourage a prospective student from higher education.

Brave New World

This not the case for 21-year-old Houa Vang.

In 1996, Vang immigrated to the United States from Thailand when she was 3-years old. She moved to her new homeland with her parents and two brothers Veechai and Nhia. They decided to move to the U.S. and take advantage of all the opportunities Thailand didn’t offer. Their quality of life improved after settling in Colorado and her parents welcoming two more children, Alex and Michelle.

When Vang graduated high school, she wasn’t sure what direction her life was heading. She had options, but not sure which one to pursue. When Veechai, her older brother, turned 18, he did not immediately enroll in college. Instead, he has chosen to work rather than pursue college at this time.

College Bound

Her loving parents both are still working so finding guidance in the household was not available. With the absence of someone to look up to regarding college, that did not influence her choices. Vang is happy she did not rush into a decision and has now decide to go to college.

This ambitious young woman knows the challenges that college can bring, but she is preparing herself for the next step in her life. She is working two airline jobs at Denver International Airport and still living at home to minimize expenses.

“I’m saving as much as I can to cover somethings so I’m not so much in debt,” she says.

Vang hopes to receive some financial aid and grants but she’s realistic (with her parents’ income and no dependents) that she may not get much.

“A lot of Hmong families raise you to contribute for yourself. You’re taught to achieve your own goals,” she says. [Hmong is an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand].

Self-Motivation and Independence

With the advice of her boyfriend Jason (who has an MBA and now enrolled in law school) and friends alike, she now has the support system she needs to start college. She is registered for classes as Front Range Community College and has plans to transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver to study Aviation.

With priorities in place, she is setting a positive example for her younger siblings. Vang’s advice? “Make sure you know what you really want to do before you put yourself in debt.”

Vang’s upbringing has taught her self-motivation, independence and a sense of reality that many young people may face, especially if they are considering the financial investment of college. Vang is prepared for the possible personal, mental and physical obstacles her new life will bring. She’s ready for the challenge.

In the near future, this first generation, college bound student hopes for a rewarding career in Air Traffic Control. Houa Vang sees herself working in the aviation industry for many years to come.

“I love to fly,” she says.

About Tia Terlaje

Tia Terlaje is a Denver-area freelance writer.

View all posts by Tia Terlaje

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