Chao, a freshman at The University of Wisconsin -- Madison, has always dreamed of becoming a doctor.
“My parents didn’t have the opportunity to get an education, but they did everything they could to make sure we did,” said Chao.
Chao is the youngest child in a large and loving Hmong family. Chao’s parents are originally from Laos but fled to a refugee camp in Thailand where their children were born. They knew coming to the U.S. would give their children the best chance at a strong education and future.
“My mother’s father helped the U.S. during the Vietnam War and she walked miles every day to the U.S. consulate to share his picture and his story,” said Chao. “Finally, we were approved to come to the U.S. - the land of opportunity.”
Chao’s father struggled with liver and kidney failure throughout his life and was unable to work, so Chao’s mother was the sole breadwinner while his father cared for the children. “He made me read every single day in both Hmong and English,” said Chao. “He was always available to drive us to and from school and support the activities we wanted to do.”
In 2010, Chao’s father got matched with a kidney donor. The transplant surgery was touch-and-go. At the same time, the economic recession led to the loss of Chao’s mother's factory assembly job and she picked up several odd jobs to make ends meet. “It was one of the hardest times for our family,” recalled Chao.
Thankfully, Chao’s father survived. “He told us he wanted to survive to see us graduate - that’s what kept him here,” said Chao.
With the pride of his family behind him, Chao looked for every opportunity to fulfill his dream of going to college and becoming a doctor. A friend told him about the Sponsor-A-Scholar program at Boys & Girls Clubs and Chao signed up right away.
“Boys & Girls Clubs set me up for success,” said Chao. “They helped me with my resume, cover letters for jobs, applying to college, and how to find scholarships. The best advice I received was to apply to every scholarship I could, especially local ones.”
Donations to United Way’s Community Fund support this and other programs at Boys & Girls Clubs that help local students succeed.
Thanks to the guidance and advice Chao received through Boys & Girls Club, not only will he fulfill his goal of going to college, he will graduate debt-free thanks to scholarship support.
Chao graduated high school in 2020. Due to COVID-19, his high school graduation ceremony was cancelled, but Boys & Girls Clubs celebrated their graduating students with an outdoor ceremony. Chao’s father attended the ceremony and couldn’t have been more proud of his son.
"Boys & Girls Clubs opened so many doors for me,” said Chao. “They helped make the dream of higher education a reality.”
Chao and Boys & Girls Clubs remind us all that to live better, we must Live United. Consider supporting this important work with a donation to United Way’s Community Fund.