When Mai Vo ’19 came to the United States, she wasn’t imagining a private college education.
She had spent most of her teen years at home in Vietnam, after her brother, then parents, emigrated to the U.S.
“The rules changed, so I had to live 4 ½ years in my home (without them),” she said. “I had care from my aunt and grandmother, but I had to take care of myself.”
In 2010, she was finally able to reunite with her family, and she enrolled in high school, then Portland Community College, where she found the Future Connect program.
Future Connect is designed to help low-income and first-generation students navigate the college process by providing scholarships, along with career guidance and personal advising, on their way to an associate’s degree.
The program also makes students eligible for additional scholarships to pursue bachelor’s degrees at universities in the region.
Vo is one of three Future Connect students who transferred from PCC to Pacific University this fall on full-ride scholarships.
“I had both the language barrier and the financial barrier. I didn’t even think about private school,” Vo said. “But my Future Connect coach told me about the opportunity of a full-ride … I did some research on Pacific, and I found the pharmacy program.”
Vo’s parents were pharmacists in Vietnam, and she saw many residents of her country struggle with the costs of medications. She hopes to someday become a pharmacist herself and start a nonprofit organization to help people in developing countries, like Vietnam, gain better access to medications.
“I hope in the future to people in my country. Right now, though, I want to be able to take care of myself and my family.
“The scholarship helped me overcome the financial barrier and gave me more motivation,” she said. “I understand in the U.S., if you try your best, if you take advantage of opportunities, there are people there who are willing to support you and help your dream come true.”