When Thavery Lay-Bounpraseuth decided to apply for colleges, she faced far more obstacles than the average student.
Lay-Bounpraseuth immigrated to the United States when she was 5 as a refugee from Cambodia. Since her parents had no experience with the American university system, she had to learn the ropes on her own.
“You wonder, who do you ask? What questions do you ask?” Lay-Bounpraseuth says. “I didn’t even know where to start.”
Now, as coordinator of the Asian & Pacific Islander Student Center, she has a chance to provide guidance for students facing the same challenges that she did.
On Saturday, Feb. 15, Cal Poly Pomona is hosting a college expo for students from underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bronco Student Center. Visit www.calstate.edu/journeytosuccess for more details.
“Personally I really connect with the community,” Lay-Bounpraseuth says. “It’s an issue close to my heart. I definitely know what these students are going through.”
The expo is part of the California State University’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative’s “Journey to Success” program, whose goal is to improve college access and information for middle and high school students and their families. The event will feature workshops on college preparation and financial aid, and representatives from CSU campuses will be on hand to talk with students about their options.
For many prospective students in AAPI communities, the college application process may be confusing and can seem like an insurmountable obstacle without the help of a mentor. Rather than hire outsiders to do outreach, the initiative uses a different resource – students.
“We learned that, like in most communities, students will listen to other students,” Lay-Bounpraseuth says. “So our model involves student ambassadors that have been hired to go out and do the outreach events.”
Patrick Khiev, a public administration graduate student and intern with Cal Poly Pomona’s Office of Admissions & Outreach, is one of these ambassadors. As a first-generation college graduate and a member of the AAPI community, he is exactly the sort of student that the program was created for.
“The admissions process is daunting, especially for the AAPI community, because we don’t really have those conversations at home,” Khiev says. “So students like myself have to go out and find the resources on their own.”
Khiev says he finds it empowering to help students who are facing the same difficulties he once did.
Cal Poly Pomona is the ninth campus to host a college expo under the “Journey to Success” Initiative. For more information, email Thavery Lay-Bounpraseuth at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (909) 869-5025.