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Alumni Profile
To avoid the killing squads, they fled their village and spent the next several
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."
But Mom's recollection of those years in the Cambodian killing fields is tem-
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."
His family was split up into separate concentration camps, and Mom ended up
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.
As the massacres intensified in 1978, entire villages were having their food
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.
As they joined other families on the exodus toward Thailand, a soldier told
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.
Escaping the bloodshed behind them, Mom and his family were soon spon-
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."
Eventually, Mom's father was contacted by a family member living in Lowell,
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.
Mom attended the Daley School in Lowell, and then went to Greater Lowell
Regional Vocational Technical High School to study a trade carpentry. After
graduation, he enrolled at Middlesex, where he immediately engaged.
"I thought it was just normal for students to get involved, to show others how
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."
Mom fondly remembers his time spent at Middlesex, and in particular, the
help and mentoring he got from staffers such as retired Health Services nurse
Dorothy O'Connell, and Patricia Demaras, Assistant Dean of International/
Multicultural Affairs. With their help, he became president of the Asian-
American Club.
"Middlesex Community College is a wonderful family, where truthfully, the
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."
Mom also met his future wife, Sirady Van, while attending MCC. They now
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
therapy degree.
He owns his own therapeutic business, Mom Therapy, on Pine Street in Lowell.
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.
"As an immigrant, as a refugee, as a boy who lived through a genocide, who
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?
"But here I am, a part of the greatest country on Earth, and I am a part of
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."
Patrick Cook
Commencement exercises for the
Class of 2015 will be held at
10 a.m.
May 21
, in Lowell Memorial
Auditorium, 50 E. Merrimack St.
This year's Commencement speaker will be
State Rep.
Rady Mom
, the MCC alum who in November won election
to the 18th Middlesex House District and became the first
Cambodian-American legislator in the United States.
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