The second edition of our #thefutureisfemale Scholarship has left us feeling unbelievably inspired. 21,128 world-changing fearless females submitted their applications, sharing their thoughts, dreams, and ideas for the ways in which they plan on making an impact. Picking a winner from 20,000+ brilliant women was no easy task, to say the least, but one we relished.
We are so thrilled to announce our winner, Catalina Sa-Ngoun. Catalina stood out to our entire team thanks her commitment to social work, her desire to help low-income students have access to higher education, and the ways in which she draw inspiration from her parents, refugees from Cambodia. Catalina is currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work at Columbia University in New York; here’s a glimpse at what she hopes to accomplish through her studies:
“Reflecting on my experiences and how they have shaped my life is the reason why my goals include working in a low-income school district and contributing to a reform to get more low-income students into college… My impact will not only meet but succeed the demands of our communities. I want to leave the world better than I found it, by working to bridge the poverty and educational achievement gap until there isn’t one.”
We can’t wait to see what you do next, Catalina! Read her full submission below for some serious inspiration. And to all of you fearless females: Keep an eye out for the third edition of #thefutureisfemale Scholarship, launching early in 2018!
What Inspires You?
I am the daughter of a high-school-educated mother and father who never had the opportunity to graduate. The reality of my parent’s educational pursuits fueled my ambitions to become the first in my family to earn a college degree. This distinction set a new standard for my family and helped me overcome the statistical cycle that often plagues millions of low-income students from higher education. My parents overcame the challenges of not knowing English and migrated from rural Battambang, Cambodia to life in the urban society of Seattle, Washington. Watching my parents overcome barriers in Tukwila, Washington, where I grew up inspires me the most. Having attended grade school with many students living in poverty, my goals have always included public service within my community. Tukwila is home to thousands of other refugee families, making it one of the most diverse cities in the nation. The school district has over 80 percent of students on free or reduced lunch. There is a constant challenge of bridging national school expectations with an increasing refugee population. Although a commitment to public service doesn’t promise financial stability, my parents’ ability to not only survive but succeed in the US remains my biggest inspiration!
Who is your most important female role model?
My most important role model confronts any trials with dignity and grace, and never lets her fears get in the way – my mother. She is our family’s backbone and has overcome the challenges of being a refugee, teenage mother, and working two jobs her entire life. She has always told me to chase my dreams, whatever they may be, and has never doubted me. Her love glows greater than any fire and fuels my greatest aspirations. I’ve yet to meet anyone as influential as my mom.
What course are you wanting to enroll in?
Against odds, I was recently accepted into the Master of Social Work program at Columbia University in New York. My courses start in the fall. This opportunity will allow me to stay engaged within a new community, continue to help support my family and gain the skills I need to take my passions to the next level. My experience growing up in Tukwila provides great insight to addressing current educational challenges.
As a college student, I have had access to opportunities that often escape low-income students. I also identify with the oppression that coincides with being a student of color. Walking around a largely white campus can create feelings of ethnic isolation, insecurity, and discouragement. As an International Rescue Committee volunteer, I use my background to be culturally sensitive and respectful of diverse backgrounds. As an intern, I introduce newly relocated refugee families to the US school system by being their central point of contact. I helped navigate their surroundings to build a sense of comfort. As a tutor, I assisted with ESL grade-school students to help keep them on track with US school standards. Constant communications with schools, parents, and students are essential to providing adequate services. Part of being an effective social worker means engaging with the community to achieve full potential – it’s an aspect of the field that appeals greatly to me and although some behind the desk jobs are necessary, the most gratifying part of working in social work happens in-home and on the field.
What impact do you want to leave in the world?
We live in a society where hate crimes are a growing concern that victimizes individuals and entire communities. I have been dedicated to working for all communities, specifically those who are financially poor and people of color. Collectively, my education and professional experience will contribute greatly to my impact of promoting a climate of multicultural understanding and appreciation. Reflecting on my experiences and how they have shaped my life is the reason why my goals include working in a low-income school district and contributing to a reform to get more low-income students into college. Although I can focus on one area, community needs change which means demands can change. My impact will not only meet but succeed the demands of our communities. I want to leave the world better than I found it, by working to bridge the poverty and educational achievement gap until there isn’t one. This will require ongoing research and learning. My career as a social work will never end and that is what is most fulfilling.