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Tai Tran - Southridge High School

Tai Tran's first day of school in Kennewick was nerve-racking.

It was second semester of his eighth grade year, and he'd just moved to the United States from Vietnam. He spoke very little English.

"I knew 'hello,' but that was about it," he said.

But Tai wanted to make friends and succeed in his new home, so he worked hard to not only master the language, but to push himself academically in all subjects.

His diligence has paid off. Tai is graduating from Southridge High School this week, and then he heads off to Seattle Pacific University to study computer science.

Tai is grateful to his parents, who sacrificed so that he could succeed. He kept that in mind as he worked hard in school.

"My dad and my mom, they never got to finish high school. They gave me this opportunity," he said. "I guess this is my way to pay them back."

Tai is also grateful to his teachers and everyone who helped him find success. And he hopes other students on a similar path can take something from his story. 

"For the bilingual kids who just moved here: don't be nervous. If you say something and people don't understand, just keep trying. That's the only way for you to get better. If you pronounce something incorrectly, just ask and try to learn more. You'll eventually get it. Being anxious and not confident – it's just going to hold you back."