Written by Foua Nung Khang
2015 Holman Scholar
University of Minnesota, Class of 2019
2018 Wallin Education Partners, Development Intern
Foua’s Wallin Education Partners Story
My name is Foua Nung Khang and I am a first-generation and 4th year Hmong American student at the University of Minnesota, studying Business and Marketing Education & Human Resource Development. I come from a household size of seven. My parents are from Laos, and today they run a small business in our local Hmong community market in Saint Paul. Coming from a low socioeconomic status background, I didn’t think that I was going to get the opportunity to go to college. Because of Wallin Education Partners, I am able to achieve one of my greatest dreams.
When the time approached to start applying to colleges in high school, my number one fear about college was not being able to afford the costs. My parents work twelve hours, seven days a week to make ends meet. The last thing I wanted was for them to worry about my college expenses. It all changed when I received the Wallin EP scholarship my senior year of high school. Becoming a part of Wallin EP, I have become empowered to approach my education and life with confidence. Once I received the support, I knew instantly that my college future was in good hands.
Wallin EP has been more than a source of financial aid, but also a support program which makes this program very unique from other scholarships programs. Although my parents are very supportive, I don’t always tell them if I’m struggling with something because I don’t want them to worry. Sometimes it’s also hard for me to talk to them about college struggles because they may not understand. The support from my Wallin EP Advisor has kept me motivated and reminded that I am not alone. I wouldn’t know where I would be if it weren’t for the continuous support of donors, my donor partner Tom Holman, and the Wallin EP program.
This summer, I got the opportunity to work at Wallin EP as the Development Intern. I not only see the internship as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of marketing and development in the nonprofit sector, but as a way to give back to the organization that is helping me immensely in higher education. This June, Wallin EP welcomed 280 new scholars to the program (for a total of over 800 scholars enrolled in colleges and universities) – a record for the organization! What amazes me most is that out of those 280 students, over 20% are Hmong! It’s heartwarming to know that many students who are Hmong and first-generation student like me, receive this support every year. I am so grateful for Wallin EP because they believed in me and gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. Wallin EP continues to inspire me to become a scholarship donor in the future.
More about Wallin Education Partners
Wallin Education Partners serves students who are at high risk to not complete a college degree after enrolling. We focus on low-income, students of color, who are often first in their family to attend college. This demographic is underrepresented in higher education despite the fact that they have much to gain from a college degree. The Wallin EP approach is unique in that it combines funding for financial aid over four years. The program includes comprehensive, high-impact, advising support that is not found in other scholarship programs, with options for donor-scholar engagement, providing another level of support to scholars.
This model of deep, sustained engagement with students makes it one of the most effective programs of its kind in the country. Our most recent six -year graduation (93.5%) is particularly impressive when one considers the statistics for low income, first generation, students of color who have a graduation rate of 11% nationally (Pell Institute).