When Ana Munro was an eight-year-old girl growing up in Bristol, England, the English teacher (who was also the principal) at her tiny village school loved to read Native American poetry to the class. Little did Ana know then that her teacher’s love of poetry would influence not only Ana’s career, but her family and entire life’s mission.
This weekend was the fifth annual Kids Race Against Cancer. My oldest daughter, Haley, founded the race five years ago, at the ripe old age of eight, to fulfill a service requirement for a church youth program. I had just run my first 5K, and she knew that the funds raised for that race went to charity. So, when her booklet suggested to “plan and complete your own activity to serve others,” she immediately announced, “I’m gonna plan a race for kids to raise money for cancer research!”
When I first met Rothana, we had just moved to town, and I was thrilled to have a friend with whom I could speak some Thai (I served a mission in Thailand for 18 months, and I rarely have the chance to use my language skills). Over the years, our friendship has deepened beyond giggling over shared pleasantries in another language. She’s shared bits of her story with me, and with so many refugees throughout the world right now, I felt that we could all benefit from a little insight into what it feels like to leave everything behind, just hoping to find a better life.
Former Executive Director and Co-founder of M3C (Minnesota Cambodian Communities Council), Rothana has been a tireless community advocate for the advancement and preservation of rich Khmer traditions through education, mentoring, and community development programs. Rothana’s varied experiences include co-founding the first Khmer Classical Dance Group in Minnesota, managing Red Rose Productions events, and formerly serving on the board of the Asian Pacific Cultural Center. Click here to watch an interview of Rothana for the Immigration History Research Center.
Here is Rothana’s personal story of her years as a refugee:
by Laura (all photos courtesy of Heather Kristin)
Heather Kristin and I first met as freshman theatre majors at Miami University in southern Ohio. We were fast friends, and when she announced that she was moving back to New York City and wasn’t coming back the next year, I was nervous that I wouldn’t make another friend like her. Luckily for me, I soon became her sister’s roommate!
Heather has written for Glamour, Huffington Post, Salon, Slate, and for the anthology LIVE AND LET LOVE (Simon and Schuster). She has been interviewed by Oprah live on-camera, in Elle Magazine, on Latino NPR, and on Huffington Post Live. She’s also being featured in Woman’s Day this November (check out page 67!).
Heather has been honored by the State of New Jersey for mentoring at-risk teen girls for almost a decade with Girls Write Now. She teaches violin and lives in New York with her husband and two daughters, Daisy and Clover.
I was on a girls weekend, and my friend, Andrea, who is going back to school for her Associates degree in Nursing (on her way to becoming an RN—we’re so proud of her!!) told me about an amazing department on campus called TRIO. It’s a federally funded, national program that provides free academic support to students who are either low-income, first generation college students, or who have a documented disability.
Nationally, TRIO actually offers eight different programs that help students from middle school through college. They even have a program for veterans! And the funds aren’t limited to just colleges. They are also available to agencies and community-based organizations that serve disadvantaged youth or secondary schools.
Andrea is currently attending North Hennepin Community College (NHCC), and their TRIO department offers two programs: Student Support Services for current NHCC students, and Upward Bound, which helps eligible high school students prepare for college.
I wanted to learn more about the program, and the kind of people who make a career out of serving others, so I reached out to NHCC’s director of TRIO, Shelly Siegel. Read More »