Thao Phan

Updated May 22, 2017

By Troy Wilde

Tempe, AZ – Thao Phan (tao – fan), an Arizona State University graduate, has come a long way from the small town in Vietnam where she spent the first eight years of her life.

Thao, who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree, has fond memories of Vietnam, “I just remember always being around my family. I had a really large family so I always had cousins and relatives around me, so it was very family oriented over there compared to how it is here. That’s kind of one thing that I really miss about it – that, and the food.”

Thao started the second grade in Phoenix not knowing English but soon learned the language and excelled in school. She graduated from Barry Goldwater High School in Phoenix and earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona.

Like many of the students who earn scholarships from College Success Arizona, Thao was able to limit student debt during college. In addition to the six-thousand dollars the scholarship provides for educational expenses each year, students also receive specialized mentoring services from a team of talented “Success Advisers.” Thao says that guidance from Matt Sotelo, her success adviser, was very helpful, “What I wanted more than anything was the support, and that’s what I needed – I needed somebody to help me follow through.”

Thao, who is fluent in Vietnamese, plans on becoming a nurse and also hopes to volunteer for the Peace Corps, “If they (Peace Corps) would let me go to Vietnam to do my service that would be fantastic because actually that’s where I would be most useful.”

Thao credits her success in college and the desire to succeed in life to her mother and father:

“My dad graduated high school but never went to college – my dad just struggled so much with raising a family of four kids and so he was always telling us to do well in school so we could have a better future.”

Young people considering college may consider the following words of encouragement from Thao, “You need to go to college even if you don’t know what you’re doing because at some point you’re going to figure out what you’re doing and you don’t want not going to college to be your biggest mistake. So essentially, go to college if you know what you want to do. Go to college if you don’t know what you want to do, just make sure that you have that under your belt because it’s going to help you later on.”

Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income backgrounds, your tax deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this page.  Your support can help change lives.

Listen to the audio PodCast of Thao’s complete interview

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