Community's proud grads reach goals

Vy Tran - Mark Klaas/Kent Reporter
Vy Tran
— image credit: Mark Klaas/Kent Reporter

Given the opportunity, Vy Tran was determined to finish school.

The Kent teen committed herself to academics, getting involved in after-school programming in her Birch Creek community and accepting good guidance along the way.

The Thailand-born teen, one of eight children raised by a single mother, overcame obstacles to graduate on time – with a diploma and an associate degree through the Running Start program at Green River Community College.

Tran, 18, was one of 13 high school graduates recognized in an assembly at the Birch Creek Youth Center last Friday evening. The special class of seniors live in the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) communities on Kent's East Hill – Birch Creek, Valli Kee and Cascade.

"I feel thankful and grateful," said Tran, who plans to attend the University of Washington Tacoma to study dentistry or medicine. "It feels good to accomplish something. ... It was pretty difficult."

Tran made up credits her senior year, despite hobbling to class on crutches for months after tearing her ACL playing basketball at Kentlake High School.

She drew inspiration from family and friends, notably her two older brothers who are in nursing school and Cyoon McBride, an after-school program director for Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS).

Tran and her family have been a part of the Birch Creek community for 10 years. In that time, she benefitted from after-school programs – from her elementary school days to middle and high school years – to keep her engaged and growing.

"I'm actually lucky to be surrounded by people who find education important," Tran said.

This is the third year that KYFS has honored its affiliated high school graduates. KYFS has provided After School Youth Development programs in the communities as a KCHA partner for more than 25 years.

The KYFS, along with the Kent School District, Puget Sound Educational Service District and others, recently developed "Read To Succeed." The initiative – a variety of strategies, investments and targeted programs – is aimed at every child living and growing up in Kent KCHA communities to be successful in school, graduating on time, ready for college and a career.

The Gates Foundation has made a significant investment in Read To Succeed. The United Way of King County joined the effort this year.

Michael Heinisch, KYFS executive director, hopes the annual graduation event, a family affair, sends a message to younger kids in the communities to achieve their academic goals.

"Education is the one thing that will get you through life," Heinisch told the younger kids in the crowd. "You will always have your education – work for it ... and have some fun."

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