A note from MinnCAN Deputy Director Andrea Roethke: I love graduation season because it brings out so many amazing stories from students: those who have beat the odds, made an impact in their community or have inspiring hopes for their next chapter in life. After hearing Mike McCollor, principal of Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul, speak on a recent panel about changing-the-odds schools, I asked him to tell me even more about some of his incredible students.

He shared the story below from graduating senior Hsar Lay Do Moo—born in Burma, and after just six years in the United States, moving on to college thanks to his own determination and the support of great educators and programs like Upward Bound, College Possible and Genesys Works. I hope you’ll read his story and carry it with you as a reminder of all our students’ potential.


To whom it may concern:

Being alone in the dark without the sun is hard, but to be able to see the light is even harder. I was originally from Burma. Because of the civil war between the Burmese government and Karen people, my family moved to refugee camp in Thailand. Living in the camp was like a prison. Even though we were safe in there, it was really hard to find a job and have a good education.

In 2008, my family came to United States from Thailand. I’m the oldest in my family with three siblings. I have been in United States for six years. Being the oldest son in the family is really hard. My parents always look upon me and want me to have a good education. Since English is my fourth language, it is difficult for me to fulfill their dreams. Sometimes I just have to keep my head up and move forward to reach my destiny. I have lots of dreams and one of them is to go to college. I believe going to college will brighten up my future and help me be a good role model for my younger siblings.

As I am new to the United States, I had to deal with lots of stuff that was challenging to me. I did not know any English and learning it was challenging because it is not my first language. I was also exposed to a new environment and new food. It was really tough for me and my family to adapt to this in the first year, because we had to learn everything from the beginning, like learning how to cook, use the bathroom, a bed and the dress code. Since this is a new country for me, it is also new to my parents. Even though my parents don’t speak any English, they had to find jobs as soon as possible to pay the bills, feed us and buy what is needed in the household. Seeing them working in a low place made me want to become a better person, have a good education and a good job. These encouraged me to move forward to reach my goal.

I was a student at Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul. During my high school years, I tried to join every extracurricular activity, but I couldn’t attend any of it. I had a problem with affording transportation and I also had to watch over my sisters. In my sophomore year, some of my grades went down because of family issues. My dad had a surgery on his liver and I had to look after him. Sometimes I couldn’t study for the tests, because I had to go to the hospital with him and came home at 1 or 2 a.m. I didn’t have enough time to study for the tests.

These affected my GPA and rank. Even though my GPA and grades went down, it didn’t stop me from working hard. I tried even harder in my junior year. I stayed after school and asked for help when I didn’t understand the homework that I was supposed to do and always studied for tests. My teachers were of help. Because of the effort my GPA went up to 3.0. I joined programs such as Upward Bound and College Possible. These two programs helped me understand more about colleges and college financial aid and also helped me with the ACT.

Finally, I will be graduating in 2015 and going to college. My senior year was the busiest year for me. I had to manage my time wisely because I had three classes in the morning and work until 5 p.m. for my internship. But before getting into my internship, I had to take this program called Genesys Works. This program is a non-profit organization that helps high school students prepare for college. The skills that we learned from the Genesys Works were business and IT skills. It really helped me to improve my public speaking, presentation, collaborating with other peers, and how to be a person in different environment.

My life might not seem like I am a busy person, but in reality, I am really busy learning a new language, trying to fit in with my friends, and dealing with family problems. I still feel like I accomplished a lot of things that will help me for my future and prepare for college. Some of the things I accomplished were getting good grades and improving my English by reading 30 minutes per day.

Because of war, learning new language and being first in my family to go to college, I see myself as a young successful person who will never give up on any kind of difficult situation and is willing to do anything to overcome obstacles in order to become a successful person.

Hsar Lay Do Moo


The MinnCAN blog allows Minnesota students, teachers, administrators, parents and advocates to share their thoughts on key education issues. Blogging fellows' and guest bloggers' views and opinions are solely their own.


Recent Posts

More posts from Uncategorized

See All Posts