The transition to college is seldom easy, but Kimberly Ngo already has a head start, thanks to a pattern of self-reliance that stretches back to her first days of school.
Ngo was only a first-grader when at her first parent-teacher conference, she did most of the talking because her Vietnamese immigrant parents struggled with English.
They still do, relying on Ngo for tasks such as grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments and lately unemployment paperwork after both lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
“That’s where my leadership comes in,” Ngo said. “Even when we’re going to the grocery store.”
At the same time, her parents expected the best from Ngo in the classroom and beyond.
“When report cards come home, they don’t even check it, even at conferences,” Ngo said. “My advisers tell them that Kimberly is doing well, and they are just nodding. I think that in my culture, it’s expected to get all those A’s.”
There have been many, enough to send Ngo to the University of Washington this fall. She plans to major in a math-related field.
“She constantly strives to try new things and work on ways to not only improve herself, but those around her,” said Rogers social studies teacher Karrie Docterman-King, who’s had Ngo since the latter’s freshman year.
“She has been a joy to have in my classes because of her positive attitude and strict adherence to taking initiative and getting tasks completed,” Docterman-King said.
At home, Ngo stepped up when her mother lost her job at a nail salon because of the pandemic and her father saw his hours reduced at an assembly plant.
As her parents tried to file for unemployment benefits, it was she who led them through every step of the process, every button on the computer screen.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shortchanged the graduating class of 2021 from some opportunities, but Ngo adapted.
“We’re not getting the whole senior experience,” said Ngo, who is president of the National Honor Society and tried to stay active in Key Club and student government, despite the pandemic.
This year, Ngo applied for the Spokane Lilac Festival’s Royalty Scholarship program, and was one of seven girls chosen.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity, with a lot of speech training that will help me later in life,” Ngo said.
Ngo also volunteers at Joya Child and Family Development (formerly known as the Spokane Guilds’ School & Neuromuscular Center), a nonprofit assessment and therapy center for children ages birth to 3 years old who have developmental disabilities and delays.
She also helped others at Rogers, helping make prom dresses for her classmates and raising money for others.
“As her leadership adviser, I have seen Kim grow into a strong, confident and well-rounded young woman who is ready to take on the world,” Docterman-King said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.