Student Spotlight: Thao Pham
Thao Pham came to the U.S. at the age of 16 and with little knowledge of English.
The Vietnam native dreamed of being a nurse but knew her lack of a high school diploma would hold her back. Pham discovered that she could earn her GED at College of DuPage and, through the Early Admissions program, began taking a few classes before turning 18. But it wasn't easy.
"The GED program fit my situation perfectly," she explained. "The Admissions office was very helpful in guiding me through the admission process, including the instructions to take the replacement tests. Finally, I was very eager to start my first semester at COD in summer 2007.
"I had a really hard time fitting in to the college environment, understanding the materials and preparing for my classes. The culture shock that I experienced made me feel that it was impossible to achieve my dream. There were times that I was disappointed in myself and wanted to drop out of college."
But Pham's dream of becoming a nurse kept her going. She began taking easy classes first so she could adapt to the college environment and learn English by interacting more with others. Then she began taking harder classes that were prerequisites for the Nursing program. These required stronger English skills.
"Today, I still give a lot of my time for studying and practicing English," she said. "It is amazing how much English and science knowledge I have learned at COD. However, it will never be enough. I am still learning and exploring about America and about my nursing career. Every day that I am still in school and pursuing my goal is a valuable learning time in my educational journey."
Pham also received the Bonnie M. Wheaton Scholarship while at COD. As a student who worked part-time while attending school full-time, Pham was grateful that the scholarship, low tuition and financial aid helped her afford pursuing her dream.
"By awarding me the Honorable Bonnie M. Wheaton Scholarship, COD lightened my financial stresses, which allowed me to focus more on the most important aspect of my life – education," she said. "This encouraged me to 'climb harder on the ladder of success.' Thank you to Mrs. Wheaton and everyone who helps to make the differences in my life."
After graduating from COD, Pham earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was a member of Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing. In addition, as part of her honor Capstone project, she worked as a research assistant on the project, "Factors Related to Oral Feeding Progression in Premature Infants." She was the first author for the project's research poster that she presented at the Midwest Nursing Research Society 2012 Conference is also a co-author for the project's manuscript that was published in the Advance Neonatal Care Journal.
"I've decided to continue my education and focus on nursing research," she said. "I am now a second-year student in a BSN-Ph.D. program, working as a graduate research assistant and getting ready for my own research. My current research focuses on examining the impacts of extended tube feedings on oral feeding success in pre-term infants. I'm also working part-time at Pediatric Health Associate as a nurse!"
Pham would like to both be a nurse and as a teacher, allowing her to work with patients and pass along her nursing passion to students.
"I could have finished my prerequisites at other colleges or universities, but I believe that COD is the best decision I have ever made in my educational journey," she said. "The faculty and staff were amazing in helping me build a very solid foundation which plays a significant role in my accomplishments today!"
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