Eh Tha You Paw was one of the keynote speakers at College Possible Omaha’s 10 Year Service Anniversary Celebration in May 2022. Paw recently graduated from Benson High School in Omaha and will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall. At the anniversary celebration, she delivered this speech about her educational journey and where she strives to go.
Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for having me. It is such an honor to stand here before you this evening. My name is Eh Tha You Paw, and I am a senior at Benson High School. I will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall to major in global health and biology on the pre-med track. I want to become a pediatrician and serve children in poverty and advocate for equality, especially in the healthcare field. I am here standing at approximately 4 feet and 11 inches tall, yet my dreams and goals have always been big. My life started in a Thai refugee camp, and I was born with a rare heart condition called ventricular septal defect. By the time I was six years old, seeking medical care had become impractical. It was really hard to do daily activities without having trouble breathing. Luckily, we found a patron from America that was willing to give us the money we needed to save my life. Because of this condition, I didn’t get to fully go to school like the rest of the kids.
During recovery, I recall staying at home and waiting for my friends to tell me how their days were at school. They would tell me they learned a new song and played jump rope during free time. One day, while everyone was at school, I walked to the school building and peeked through the school window to see what everyone was learning about. Now, I don’t have to be a creeper; I can participate normally.
In 2012, at the age of nine, my family and I immigrated to the United States in hopes of providing me and my brothers the ability to pursue a better life through education. In America, I know I have every opportunity I did not have in the refugee camp. I started school as a second-grader at the age of nine. Like many other refugees and ESL kids, I struggled with learning a new language, making friends, and communicating with teachers. So… as a second-grader, I worked really hard in school. I carried this work ethic with me through middle school where I eventually skipped seventh grade and caught up with my age cohort.
As I transitioned to high school as a freshman, I started to be involved with school extracurricular activities. I knew I wanted to take advantage of every educational opportunity. I first heard about College Possible through one of the upperclassmen in my Spanish class. He asked one of his friends if they were going to College Possible. And, curious as I was, I asked if I could tag along. They explained to me that I could join when I’m a junior. So, junior year rolls around, and unfortunately, it rolls right during the pandemic. When I first joined College Possible, it was all online.
But it’s absolutely one of the best decisions that I made, that created a trajectory for my senior year. Because of the help of my College Possible coach Molli, the College Possible staff, and the supporters around me, I had the opportunities and the courage to apply to 25 colleges in the United States. It didn’t matter how many noes I got, all I know is that I would never have these opportunities if I weren’t here. I would never have the courage to face all the rejections if I didn’t have such a supportive community and people that constantly support me. Although I got more noes, I did get a great many yesses. I got into some of the amazing public universities, such as the University of California – Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was awarded the Dell Scholarship, the Smith Diversity Scholarship, the APIA Scholarship, and many more. I will be heading to a university without paying out of pocket. This is the American dream that I always dreamed of as a little girl.
My story is one among many College Possible students. It’s possible because of the support from people who are willing to make a difference in a student’s life. Thank you for continuously helping students thrive. Thank you.