June 2018

At Middlesex Community College, Extra Help for Asian Students


By Linda K. Wertheimer
June 5, 2018

LOWELL, Mass. — After her first-ever class at Middlesex Community College last fall, Socheata Mam sank into a couch with her backpack in the main building’s lobby. The 19-year-old Cambodian immigrant was overwhelmed, realizing she had committed to a full load of five classes and her 30-hour-a-week job as a grocery cashier.

Her parents, with limited English language skills, could not guide her. They had never had a chance to go to college because the Khmer Rouge not only committed genocide of more than 1.7 million Cambodians from 1975-79, they also cut off educational opportunities for many of those who survived.

Ms. Mam, who immigrated to the United States at age 9, said she believed she had to rely on herself for everything at her college in Lowell, Mass., home to the nation’s second largest Cambodian population.

But Virak Uy, a Cambodian refugee who is the director of the college’s new Program for Asian American Student Advancement, had no intention of letting her flounder. He urged Ms. Mam to stop by the Asian American Connections Center, which opened in 2017 to help Southeast Asian students.

Virak Uy

Photo Credits: M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

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Last Modified: 10/17/23