Former UB Student Honored at Congressional Reception

Kou Vue serves as featured speaker at event spotlighting TRiO

Kou Vue

Kou Vue and his family understand the importance of TRiO Upward Bound at Dakota County Technical College. One of eleven children, Vue entered the program in 2003 with his brother, Tsimnuj, but they were soon followed by their sisters, Kaohlee and Mailu. At the moment, three more Vue siblings are enrolled in Upward Bound at DCTC, Vue’s brothers, Tongso and Tushua, and his sister, Maizong. Two more are waiting in the wings. Kou Vue’s family is Hmong, originally from Laos, and his father, Bee Vue, works as the director of the Hmong Elder Connections for Volunteers of America.

Vue and his brothers and sisters take to heart the UB mission, which is helping students succeed academically by giving them the skill range they need to first graduate from high school before enrolling in college and graduating with a degree. Upward Bound participants have college potential, but they often need guidance to access and realize the numerous academic and career options that await beyond high school.

On Thursday, April 8, 2010, Kou Vue, who will be graduating this spring from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Global Studies, was honored at the Minnesota TRiO Congressional Reception at Metropolitan State University Great Hall in St. Paul, Minn. Vue was one of four current and former TRiO students who spoke at the event, including:

  • Patrick Tinsley
    Senior at Humboldt Secondary School
    Enrolled in TRiO Upward Bound program at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.

    Patrick Tinsley

  • Carri Rin
    Second-semester nursing student at Century College, White Bear Lake, Minn.
    Active participant in TRiO Student Support Services

    Carri Rin

WCCO-TV news anchor and reporter, Don Shelby, served as the event’s master of ceremonies. He spoke about the tremendous benefits of TRiO and also delivered closing remarks that focused on how the current economic climate is adversely affecting TRiO programs.

Don Shelby

Dr. Sue Hammersmith, Metro State president, gave the welcome, and Kathy Glampe, director of Student Support Services at St. Olaf College, delivered the TRiO overview along with the recognition of honored guests.

Melody Martagon-Geiger, the congressional reception’s coordinator and a TRiO Student Support Services academic advisor at Augsburg College, was working in TRiO Upward Bound at DCTC when she met Kou Vue for the first time. She remembers that he was one of the original students accepted into the program.

“Kou was a leader in the program and had nearly perfect attendance for the three years that he participated, including all our after-school tutoring sessions, Saturday sessions and field trips,” Martagon-Geiger said. “He was also a huge recruiter for Upward Bound, bringing in many students and, of course, all his younger siblings, including two more who will join when they reach high school.”

When planning the list of speakers for the Minnesota TRiO Congressional Reception, Martagon-Geiger knew that Vue would represent Upward Bound well. “When I told him TRiO could use his help and asked if he would be a speaker, he did not hesitate to say, ‘Yes,'” she said. “Seeing him speak at the reception was a proud moment for me. Working in TRiO can be very challenging at times, but it is rewarding moments like this that make it all worthwhile.”

(left to right) Melody Martagon-Geiger, Peter Onesirosan, Christine Pigsley, Tongso Vue, Martin Olague, Tushua Vue, Ron Thomas, Mailu Vue, Don Shelby, Kou Vue, Kaohlee Vue

Kou Vue’s success is why Melody Martagon-Geiger and educators like her are passionate about TRiO and the work they do. “Because DCTC’s TRiO Upward Bound program only began in 2003, Kou will be one of the first participants to graduate from college,” she said. “He represents the beginning of many great things.”

Jill Bjorklund, a TRiO/Upward Bound advisor at DCTC, attended the congressional reception with DCTC President Ronald E. Thomas, Dean Christine Pigsley, Peter Onesirosan, an Upward Bound tutor and college lab assistant, and Martin Olague, also a UB advisor at the college.

“It is very exciting for me to see the first college graduates of the DCTC Upward Bound program,” Bjorklund said. “Kou is highly respected by his advisors and former Upward Bound peers. He is a great role model not only for Upward Bound students, but for his many brothers and sisters, some who are currently in our program.”

“I feel Upward Bound has given me the people skills needed to succeed in our world today.”

Kou Vue perhaps says it best in an excerpt from his speech at the event:

“At Upward Bound, I found a home outside of my home. I found a family outside of my family. Lacking the confidence and the ability to approach, talk to others, and manage a close friendship, Upward Bound gave me the interaction I needed to be a more friendly and approachable person. I was able to form so many great relationships with other students and with my advisors that I came to love the program not just for the services it provides, but also for the people.

“I was never one to need much assistance academically, but I feel Upward Bound has given me the people skills needed to succeed in our world today. My experience as a student in Upward Bound made such a great impact on me that even after high school, I still wanted to be a part of Upward Bound.”

After earning his Global Studies degree at the U of M, Vue plans to travel to Thailand and Laos as part of a global seminar. He will then head for Hong Kong to participate in another program linked to his studies. Vue considers the overseas trip the perfect way to end his undergraduate career.

“I have plans to attend graduate school and take part in the Peace Corps sometime in the near future,” Vue said, “but as of now, I would like to take some time off to give my mind some rest. I will not rest for long, though, because Upward Bound has taught me that the world has a lot to offer. I just need to do my best at whatever it is I do and keep searching.”

Ron Thomas, Don Shelby, Kou Vue

Click below for the full text of Vue’s speech: