2013 Dollars for Scholars Student of the Year

Hannah Truong
Bellingham Dollars for Scholars (Washington)

Congratulations to Hannah Truong of Bellingham, Washington, winner of the Scholarship America Dollars for Scholars Student of the Year Award. Hannah, who is attending Yale University, received a $1,000, four-year renewable scholarship.

Only two decades ago, Hannah’s parents fled communist persecution and joined thousands of other Vietnamese refugees in the United States following the end of the Vietnam War. With few resources and no understanding of English, Mr. and Mrs. Truong relied on the generosity of strangers in their new community of Bellingham, Washington – and after Hannah was born, they relied on their daughter to transcribe the unfamiliar language for them. At doctors and dentist appointments and visits to the social security office, Hannah was always by their side – playing the role of translator for her parents from a young age, and helping them understand problems and situations she was too young to understand herself.

“It was a very difficult transition for them,” Hannah said, as she recalled those early years of assisting her parents. “They received a lot of support from English language programs, and sponsors who helped them get adjusted to the United States, but after the first couple of months here, they were on their own. They were forced to get used to living in a world where they were outsiders. And for me growing up, I struggled with them as I learned my identity as an American and figured out how I would help them pursue the American Dream.”

Because of the war, neither of Hannah’s parents got the chance to go to college, though Hannah’s maternal grandfather was once a prominent senator in Vietnam. For as far back as she can remember, Hannah knew that she and her sister were expected to do well in school and attend college, so they could achieve the dream that their parents never got the chance to pursue.

“From the instant I was born, it was my mother’s goal to send me to college,” Hannah said. “It was always there.”

How she would pay for college was another story. Though Mr. and Mrs. Truong told Hannah that they would do everything they could to support Hannah financially, their resources were limited, and it was up to Hannah to do her best in school so she could one day receive scholarships to pay for tuition.

For more on how Hannah made it to Yale, earned this national award and appeared on Katie Couric's daytime talk show, stay tuned for the Scholarship America Annual Report!

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