Hang Thi Anh Bui, a student in Southeast Community College's Business Administration program, received the Learn to Dream Achiever Award for the spring quarter that ended June 7.
The award is presented to an SCC student on the Learn to Dream Scholarship who has completed at least two successful quarters of classes at the College and who has demonstrated personal improvement and achievement.
Bui, born and raised in Vietnam, she left Vietnam in September 2008. Bui came to the United States on a student visa and she hasn't been back since. While she misses her immediate family, she has lived in Lincoln with her cousins, uncle and aunt. After graduating from Pius X High School, Bui began her study at SCC in fall 2011.
"The Learn to Dream Scholarship was a miracle," Bui said. "I didn't know about the scholarship until a (Pius X) guidance counselor told me about it and helped me fill out the application. I couldn't believe that I received it."
The scholarship pays for tuition and fees up to 45 quarter credit hours to SCC for qualified students.
Bui improved her English skills while at Pius X and has adapted to American culture. But it hasn't been easy.
"When I first arrived here, it was the start of a new chapter of my life," she said. "I realized I was in a different country and a totally different culture. Adapting to life in the U.S. and starting in a new school had been very challenging. My life was, indeed, completely altered."
Bui, the second of five children, sacrificed sleep to complete her homework. She took public transportation to and from school, using the time to study and do her homework.
"I kept telling myself to never give up no matter what," Bui said. "I told myself that I must do my best so that I can make my parents proud of me."
When Bui first arrived in the U.S. her only goal was to earn a college degree and land a good-paying job to support her family in Vietnam. However, one experience changed her mind. Last summer, while attending a leadership training camp in Wichita, Kan., she met Father Martino Nguyen, a Catholic priest. His One Body Village, a charity whose mission is to combat human sex trafficking in developing countries, (especially Vietnam and Cambodia), caught Bui's attention.
"Father Martino said most of the children are only 6 or 7 years old and have been sold by their families to support their living," Bui said. "The children are sold into Cambodia and other places where they are forced to live and work in brothels.
"Once I heard these stories I immediately wanted to help them. I wanted to share my gifts, my talents and my education with these children."
It has been reported that as many as 30,000 children have been involved in the sex trade.
SCC has been good for her, Bui said.
"I like the small classes where you have a chance to ask questions and interact with other students," she said. "And the teachers are always willing to help you."
Bui, whose program focus is accounting, plans to transfer to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and perhaps one day provide more help to One Body Village.
"My desire to volunteer and help victims of sex slavery will always be part of my life," she said. "And as an accountant, I can help the victims of violence by working for a non-profit organization. I want to be part of the solution, and non-profit organizations need an accountant to help them stay afloat and continue their mission."
If Bui isn't studying, she's probably volunteering. She trains teenagers to become future leaders, teaches Vietnamese to young children and cooks for those in need.
"Volunteering has helped me become more confident, experienced and involved in the community," she said. "But the most important thing I have learned from volunteering is that I have a desire to help those around me and to give back to the community. Volunteering lets me give back to the country that gave so much to me. I have a clear vision of my career and life path, and I will work hard to achieve this goal."