years living in huts, separated from one another. "You grabbed whatever you
could, put it in a backpack, tied it into a bed sheet, and fled. I had the clothes
on my back, but went from the luxury of sleeping in my home to sleeping on
the ground the very next day."
pered with the love he remembers being enveloped in by his family, something
that allowed him to persevere. "As a kid, you don't feel the horrific pain and
suffering that my mother and father would endure," said Mom. "They managed
to always get me to smile, and never really told me how bad it was."
living in a straw hut with his grandparents for much of his earliest years. "They
were amazing angels, they showed me how peaceful life can be," said Mom.
supplies poisoned around them. It was then his father decided the family
needed to flee toward Thailand to avoid the mass executions, and they made
a break for it.
Mom's father, "Whatever you do, when we continue on to the mountain, do not
follow us. That place was known as the Mountain of the Cold Heart. We knew
that everyone being led there was going to be executed there, so we made our
break in the middle of the night." Their flight would continue still for weeks,
reaching the point where they had to form the human chain to make their final
break for the salvation of a refugee camp.
sored by a family in Chester Park, Minn. They came to America, and settled
in nearby Duluth for the next few years. "When I came to America, I saw this
white coating on the ground, and said this country is so rich, when they sleep
they sprinkle salt all over the ground," Mom recalled with a laugh. "I had
never seen snow."
who encouraged them to travel to the Mill City to seek new opportunities.
The family's sponsors drove them across the country in a recreational vehicle,
and they arrived in Lowell in 1984.
Regional Vocational Technical High School to study a trade carpentry. After
graduation, he enrolled at Middlesex, where he immediately engaged.
to get help," said Mom. "I didn't think anything of it, I didn't think of myself as
a leader. I just thought everyone did it."
help and mentoring he got from staffers such as retired Health Services nurse
Multicultural Affairs. With their help, he became president of the Asian-
unity of friendship and the caring attitude of every staffer that I met, their love
and respect, was life-changing. I can't say enough about it. And that's why
Middlesex will always be in my heart, no matter what. I'm so blessed."
have four children. Mom didn't walk across the stage at MCC Commencement
ceremonies, however, because he left to attend the New Hampshire Institute
for Therapeutic Arts in Hudson, N.H., transferring his credits there to attain a
He is a master-level Thai Chi and meditation instructor, as well as a profes-
sional photographer. Add to that full plate the work of being a State Represen-
tative, and you can imagine, his days are pretty packed.
landed in America without being able to speak a word of English, if you were
to tell me I could one day be a poster child for the American Dream, I'd say,
are you crazy?
democracy. I sit in the House chamber, I look up and think about John F.
Kennedy, John Quincy Adams and the other leaders who have sat there. It's
immense. I pinch myself every day just to make sure I'm not dreaming."
Class of 2015 will be held at
Cambodian-American legislator in the United States.