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2017-10-09T16:07:59+00:00 March 9, 2017|Highline Voices, News|
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  • Highline Voices Ay Saechao

By Ay Saechao

When I began college two decades ago, I wanted to be a geologist. I was fascinated by the theory of plate tectonics and its connection with land formation, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Early on, however, I discovered a more personal search. It began when I walked through the doors of the Asian Pacific American Education office of Oregon State University. A young Asian-American woman, Sho Shigeoka, approached me as I entered the Minority Education Office and asked me how she could help. At the time, I was looking for scholarships and academic opportunities. I got much more than I asked for.

I soon took up a work-study position in her office, assisting with filing and other office-related activities. Most of the time, the workdays seemed to be more of a counseling session. Shigeoka would ask me about my history and the experience of the Mienh people in our schools.

I told her stories of how the Mienh people supported U.S. CIA operatives during the Secret War in Laos and how we had to flee for our lives after the war ended. I shared that my parents’ family, in addition to the majority of Mienh people who landed in Portland, Oregon, relocated to the apartment project called Rose City Village, where many of us struggled with poverty, despair and cultural adjustment, while coping with the traumas of war that still crippled our community.

One of these stories greatly impacted my personal and professional trajectory. …

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This article was originally published in the print edition of the Federal Way Mirror on March 3, 2017.

About the Author

Ay Saechao, co-founder of the nonprofit Southeast Asian Education (SEAeD) Coalition, is Associate Dean for Student Development and Retention as well as TRiO Director at Highline College. He has dedicated his career to addressing the educational opportunity gap at both the local and national levels.

In 2015, he was invited by the White House to showcase his SEAeD community work. His work in the TRiO Student Support and Retention Services program at Highline has exceeded national benchmarks in regard to student retention, graduation and persistence.

He is the father of two handsome boys and husband to his beautiful wife Asami.

About Highline Voices

Highline Voices brings a range of diverse perspectives to our community, featuring the expertise of Highline College staff and faculty. Read other articles in the Highline Voices series that began in 2016. All Highline employees are welcome to contribute to the series. Email Tanya Powers or Kari Coglon Cantey for guidelines.