Happy St. Patrick’s Day – My Immigration Story

Today, St. Patrick’s Day 2012, we are inspired to pay tribute to Irish immigrant roots, and as Americans, many of us ponder our own roots on this day, whether Irish or not. This is a country of immigrants. That is what makes it so wonderful – and forces us to rise above and learn to tolerate, accept and even love people from very different cultures.

Thuy Hang “Jinni” Tran, Cross Keys HS ’12, recently shared her own immigrant story in the form of a personal essay (see below – with permission). On this day dedicated to the “pride of the Irish,” we want to share a bit of the pride of our current immigrant Americans in hopes it reminds you of the aspirations of our many current immigrant families at Cross Keys HS, Sequoyah MS, Woodward ES, Montclair ES, Dresden ES, Cary Reynolds ES, and Oakcliff ES as well as the International Community School (a charter), the DCSS International Student Center, Clarkston HS, Indian Creek ES, Hightower and all the other DeKalb schools hosting so many from other cultures. We also wish to share our confident belief that it is their sacrifice and grit that will perpetuate the “American Dream” long into the future through the values they instill in their children.

So by all means raise a pint or dance a jig to honor the Irish today! But we entreat you to also honor the Pakistanis, the Bulgarians, the Sudanese, the Mexicans, the Bosnians, the Hondurans, the Vietnamese and the many uncounted immigrants in our very unique community called DeKalb county.

We, especially today, give honor and thanks to the brave Vietnamese family who brought us Thuy Hang Tran and her family to these free shores. May God Bless the Trans and their pursuit of the “American Dream” in this great Nation!


Never take education for granted but take it to the fullest advantage.

Some of the greatest things I learned in life are not through the classes at school but rather through people. The greatest influence in my life has been my parents. Unlike most parents, they have never attended any of my honor’s nights, cross-country competitions, community projects, or school conferences. Yet, I do not blame their negligence, knowing that they are busy working for my provision as well as for the relatives in Vietnam. My parents have trusted me to fight for the education that was taken away from them by the Vietnamese society. They are my inspiration to succeed in school. Below I will unravel the stories of my parents and show they had taught me to never take education for granted but take it to the fullest advantage.

As a little girl, my mother spent her days running for bomb shelters and racing for American can goods that were “dropped from the sky.” She lived during the Vietnam War, a time when education was scarce; out of nine daughters, she was the only one that did not quit school. Ambitious to become a lawyer and enter politics, she studied hard to finish high school. However, she was forbidden from attending college because her father had fought for the Americans in the Vietnam War. Angered at the injustice from the government, my mother wrote several articles criticizing communism and as a result of her daring action, she was put in jail. It was not from the textbook history but the primary source of my mother’s early life that I’ve learned about the oppression masked underneath the communist government that claimed equality for all. From my mother’ restriction from attending college, I recognize that if I still live in Vietnam, despite my efforts in school, I would be designated by the society to be a farmers or merchant because of my family unfavorable history.

Luckily, my grandfather bailed my mother out, claiming that she was soon to be engaged. Yet, on the night of the engagement, she escaped the village and moved into the city where her older sister lives. There she met my father, a talented artist and an eloquent speaker. He was a high school graduate who was also forbidden from attending college because his father fought on the American side, the same predicament as my mother. As a fate would have it, after the war ended, my dad and his side of the family were given amnesty to move to America. He left with a promise that one day he would bring his wife and children there too. Keeping his promise, ten years later my father brought my mother, my sister, and me here.

Now, my mother works at a food factory, standing in the hot noisy place for hours nonstop while tediously putting labels on food packages. From that perspective, one probably would not know that she once was an aspiring young woman who wanted to change the government. My father works at a Nail shop. From that perspective, one probably would not know that he once was the smartest guy in this class and used to play guitar for the entire village. It saddens me to see that my parents ended in situations very different from their greater ambitions. However, even when society failed to cultivate their potential, they still have faith in education. Their hope for an accomplished life lives through me because I have the opportunity to pursue my education. Coming from a low-income family, my goal now is to further pursue education by attending a college. I truly believe that education will give me the opportunity to levitate myself from the destitute lifestyle to success, something that my grandparents and parents could never obtain.

– Jinni Tran

— Submitted by Kim Gokce

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6 Responses to Happy St. Patrick’s Day – My Immigration Story

  1. Watching... says:

    Thank you Kim. And thank YOU, not only for an inspiring post, but for getting the full name of the International COMMUNITY School correct. (Knowing it is a start-up charter–but that the central part of its identity is about community–the center C is not about the sometimes divisiveness of the politics around chartering..)

    For those who are not aware of Kim’s work… here is a link to the foundation that has provided so much positive energy for the Cross Keys cluster:

    Here is a link to a fuller story tied to ICS:


    There will also be a documentary movie about ICS coming out in the near future. Here is a link to another blog that has posted the trailer for the movie in it:


    –Marney Mayo

  2. Poster says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful tribute to her parents. Jinni is an inspiration. Thanks for sharing this, Kim.

  3. We have also been informed that we needed to add Hightower to the list. Surely there are others as DeKalb is recognized as one of the most diverse counties in the U.S. Please add info about the immigrant students in your home schools. I know Lakeside hosts students from over 55 countries where English is not spoken as the language in the home.

    This is the info we received about Hightower:
    Hightower Elementary School, which has over forty nations represented in its student population, is in the DeKalb Doraville corridor as the other ESOL elementary schools such as Oakcliff ES, Woodward ES, Dresden ES. Hightower ES is the only DeKalb elementary school listed by the GaDOE that has consistently made AYP for 13 years, is a Title I Distinguished elementary school, and one of the few ESOL schools in the state that has consistently made AYP.

  4. jesslahey says:

    Thanks so much for the link to my post about ICS on my blog, Coming of Age in the Middle. I was really moved by the film A Place in the World, and hope it does well.

  5. murphey says:

    Thank you, Kim, and DeKalb School Watch, for this inspirational essay.

    Parents who are able to support their child’s school, please consider this a personal call to volunteer for or lead at least one event at your child’s school. Please don’t think that “someone else” will do it, or that you did your time in elementary school.

    I know that supporting teachers and students like Jinni is absolutely the right thing to do, but when it’s the same group of 10-12 parents who are doing the work for all parents at the school it becomes nearly impossible to provide the needed support and it becomes overwhelming for those parents who are doing their best.

  6. dekalbteacher says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Kim. I taught Jinni at Sequoyah, as well as her sister. Amazing young ladies!

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