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G-Prep senior strives to maintain Hmong roots

Nikky Xiongxtoyed is the notable graduate for 2011 from Gonzaga Prep. (Jesse Tinsley)
Nikky Xiongxtoyed is the notable graduate for 2011 from Gonzaga Prep. (Jesse Tinsley)

Nikky Xiongxtoyed, 18, is continuing a family tradition in more ways than one. Last year, her sister Vikky Xiongxtoyed was named the outstanding senior from North Central High School. This year it’s Nikky Xiongxtoyed’s turn when she graduates from Gonzaga Preparatory School.

“I didn’t know about this until yesterday,” Xiongxtoyed said in a late-April interview. “I’m very honored. I can’t believe I got it, too.”

Xiongxtoyed’s family is Hmong. Her parents grew up in Laos, and they met after immigrating to the United States. Xiongxtoyed is one of six siblings, and she said her parents encouraged her to stay in touch with her Hmong roots, but also to embrace American life. That’s a tight line to walk for any child of immigrants.

“I am bilingual, and Hmong religion is traditionally shamanism,” Xiongxtoyed said. “It was total culture shock to come here to Gonzaga Prep and learn about the Bible and Catholicism.”

That hasn’t been Xiongxtoyed’s only challenge: Her father died two years ago, and her mother struggled to provide for her and her siblings.

“It was really tough for my mom,” Xiongxtoyed said. “She has a job now, and things are going better.”

Xiongxtoyed lives with her grandparents – sister Vikky is away at college at Pacific Lutheran University – and she dances in a Hmong traditional dance group.

She plans to study political science at Gonzaga University and go to law school – and then perhaps run for office.

“I feel like knowing about government and how it works, I can really help my people,” said Xiongxtoyed. “I have this vision that I can do that. There was a Hmong senator in Minnesota, so I know it can be done.”

Her counselor at Gonzaga Prep, Ann Kukuk, has lots of faith in Xiongxtoyed:

“This young lady can do anything she puts her mind to.”

Xiongxtoyed’s favorite class was community service. As part of the class, she worked with first-graders at Regal Elementary School.

“That was really fun,” Xiongxtoyed said. “We got to read and write and do math with them.”

She’s on the dance team and involved in the all-girls Ancilla club at Gonzaga Prep.

“We go out in the community,” she said about Ancilla, “like, tonight we have casino night at Riverview Retirement Center.”

When she begins her studies at Gonzaga she hopes to get involved in a diversity club or with a group of foreign exchange students. No matter which activity she’s involved in, she views herself as a Hmong ambassador.

“That’s one reason why I do the dancing, to show people my culture,” Xiongxtoyed said.

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