Sometimes “under the radar” doesn’t aptly describe someone whose accomplishments go generally unnoticed. Take North Central High School senior Vikky Xiongxtoyed, for example.
As NC guidance coordinator Kathy Blancher put it, “I think that any of her classmates seeing this will be very surprised by all that Vikky has achieved. They know her as the quiet girl who does well in class, but that’s about it.”
What they don’t know is that Xiongxtoyed, whose parents came to the United States from Laos, is determined to honor her Hmong heritage at the same time she challenges herself to become involved in the community beyond that close-knit group.
“My father raised all of us to be leaders in the Hmong community,” she said of herself and her five siblings, “but also to become Americanized by reaching out to other cultures, making friends from all races and religions. I learned from him that it’s important to retain what’s valuable about my culture, but to expand myself and value diversity in others, too.”
Xiongxtoyed’s father came to the U.S. as a seventh-grader, and eventually met her mother at a traditional Hmong gathering in Fresno, Calif. They each came from small communities in Laos, which their families left because of political unrest there.
She is saddened that her dad won’t see her graduate from NC. He was diagnosed with colon cancer during her freshman year and passed away when Xiongxtoyed, the oldest of the family’s six children, was a junior.
“I was very down and depressed when my dad died,” she said. “I withdrew into myself. It took my sister’s advice to shake me up. She asked me if, after everything our father did to encourage us to become positive and strong, I thought he would appreciate how I was acting. I knew then that he would want me to step up and be a leader.”
Her experience with her father’s illness and, earlier, her grandmother’s, has inspired her to work toward a career as a health professional. She plans to major in nursing at Pacific Lutheran University, and with that in mind has been enrolled at NC in a program heavy on the sciences, with a 3.7 cumulative grade-point average.
“I really want to give back to my community, kind of do that for my dad,” she said. “I want to be someone others can lean on.
“Some in the Hmong community isolate themselves, stick together, and do things socially only with other Hmong. But my dad and mom were different. They wanted us to be really involved with traditional activities, but not to limit ourselves and our achievements.”
Xiongxtoyed dances with a Hmong group that performs during community festivals, and also volunteers with the Hmong Youth Association, which raises money to sponsor dances and other entertainment for Hmong kids. She has also volunteered this year at Rockwood Community Center.
And despite her low profile at North Central, she hasn’t escaped the notice of Blancher and her teachers.
“Vikky is deserving of any accolades she receives,” her counselor said, “and so are her parents for all their support and sacrifices. Her mom and dad have been very forward-thinking in empowering Vikky and her brothers and sisters to reach high in everything they do.”
And from Xiongxtoyed, the unsung hero?
“I guess people would say I’m positive in sometimes difficult circumstances, but I really don’t have much to say about myself.”