Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership (GGAL) Graduates
Hei Moo is a junior at Metro State studying Human Services. This is a reality she would not have imagined before coming to the United States. Hei Moo was born in Burma, but for a majority of her life she lived in a Thai refugee camp. Her family and her came to the United States when she was 18 years old. They arrived in Michigan with no grasp of English, knowing no one where they moved. Not long after arriving, they realized that this was not the place for them and they planned their moved to St. Paul where they had family and support.
Hei Moo joined our Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership program not long after arriving in St. Paul. She began in our Summer Program where the focus is on emotional growth more than education. She remembers that “we went on field trips, we went to the cherry and spoon and we took a trip and we went into a yoga and dancing program. It was really fun.” Hei Moo continued on with our regular GGAL program through her high school experience. She would come to GGAL every Saturday where the mentors would help with homework and as she got older would help her apply for college, financial aid, and scholarships.
Here is how she describes her own experience, “There are a lot of obstacles that GGAL help went through. It taught me how to be a leader, help me improve my English skill by having public speaking, and also help me gain self esteem and confidence. Coming together to GGAL every weeks with girls who were also immigrants from different countries make me realize that I am not the only one, which help me feel better and have more courage for my future. I have developed friendships with these girls.We would go on trips together and did a lot of activities together and it was very fun. Overall, GGAL was a really great opportunity and I will forever be grateful for GGAL.”
Paw Da EH
Paw Da is a young women from Thailand who has been a member of our Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership (GGAL) program since 2012 and is a current member of our WeLead program. Her and her family came to the St. Paul from the Thai refugee camp they had been living in since Paw Da was two years old. In the refugee camp where Paw Da grew up there was not enough food to go around and they weren’t allowed jobs or money because they couldn’t leave the camp. She attended school in the camp and when she came to the United States she entered 9th grade.
When speaking with Paw Da, she told me that everything in the U.S. was hard. Everything. The two things that stood out the most though were the language and transportation barriers. Her and her family relied on the community around them including family members who had arrived in the U.S. earlier to help them translate everything for them. Not long after starting school Paw Da heard of our Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership program from other girls and decided to give it a go. She rode the bus to GGAL every Saturday with her friends, where they would work on grammar skills, leadership building, and self esteem building; as she got older they began to prepare more for college. Paw Da told me that one of her favorite parts was applying for scholarships because her hard worked paid off. She received all the scholarships that she applied for.
Over the years, Paw Da has been with WISE we have seen tremendous growth. She is now in her junior year at Metro State studying Human Services. When asked why she wanted to work in human services, Paw Da said “I chose that because I want to help because I know how hard it is when you don’t even speak english. How difficult it was when you first came here as a refugee.Is recieved a lot of support form GGAL and my community. In return, I want to help those who need help.” Paw Da is one of the many girls that inspires us daily.