Upward Bound Student Spotlight: Oudam Ul

Burnsville High School senior awarded MCAD Admissions Merit Scholarship

Oudam Ul, 16, a senior at Burnsville High School (BHS) and a student in the TRIO/Upward Bound program at Dakota County Technical College (DCTC), was awarded an Admissions Merit Scholarship to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), a private institution of the visual arts with a long list of notable alumni. Oudam hasn’t decided on his major yet, but he’s thinking about studying illustration and studio art.

Oudam was also awarded a scholarship for an MCAD Pre-College Studio Intensive class this summer. The scholarship is based on the merits of the artwork he submitted for the 2022 South Suburban Conference Visual Arts Exhibition, a virtual show where he earned an Award of Achievement.

Participating in Upward Bound is a major goal for Oudam. “As a first-generation student in my family to hopefully attend college, I believe that UB is the right place for me to be prepared and ready for college in the future—especially at a young age.”

When asked what Upward Bound event he enjoyed the most, Oudam responded, “I would say that most of the Saturday sessions are when I get to see all my friends and hang out and meet new people out there, and I’ve learned a lot about different topics from each session.”

An active and engaged student at BHS, Oudam belongs to the National Honor Society and works on the high school’s 2022 yearbook. On track to graduate this June, he is focusing his career goals on fashion design and illustration.

Minju Kim

“It’s so exciting to talk about fashion design,” Oudam said. “I don’t even know when I started to fall in love with it—since I’ve known how to draw and color. I think that we all have to wear something that represents our personal choice. I get inspired a lot from big design brands like YSL or Alexander Wang with their unique style and concepts. I am also inspired by celebrities like BLACKPINK or G-Dragon when it comes to fashion and everyday look.”

Oudam added that he admires the work of Minju Kim, the South Korean-born, fashion icon. “Minju Kim is that playful, fanciful, magical fashion designer who captures the attention and the light with her astounding sense of imagination, her wearable art. I love creating fashion illustrations with mixed patterns, bright colors, and stories told through the art. I enjoy mixing all those elements together to create very strong figures, and I could be playful and independent at the same time.”

Oudam Ul art and fashion gallery

TRIO/Upward Bound tutor perspective: Robyn Sackett

Oudam Ul

Oudam is a dedicated, focused, and creative force of nature. Indeed, his art is his joie de vivre,  his joy of life. In fact, he sees his life as a work of art in its early phases of creation.

Oudam is one of the first artists in Upward Bound that I have had the honor of working with. He is an open and positive young man. When asked about his goals for his art, he tells a remarkable story of a mural he was asked to create at Eagle Ridge, his school in Burnsville. His portfolio includes photographs of the mural.

The goal of the piece was to bring sunshine and joy into the school for the children to experience. It was a very complicated and detailed construct, organized and developed by Oudam and created with fellow artistic friends. And, as it depicts today, the mural is an encounter with  life, with energy and joy, it is bright and hopeful. The wall is more than simply a wall because of Oudam—it is a celebration.

Oudam speaks with great regard for his teachers, all of them, who have guided his progress, inspired him to learn and develop the skills to learn more. As he recalls his education, he sees they  have challenged him to create beyond his expectations, and he is grateful for each and every one.

What an inspiration it is to have met Oudam! Meeting his goals, taking on challenges, and bringing honor to his family are his guiding forces and each inspire him to keep on moving. The role of an artist is a challenging one, and I know that we all wish him a bright future! Take the ride, Oudam! We are with you.

Robyn Sackett
TRIO/Upward Bound Tutor
Dakota County Technical College

Sky Oaks Elementary School mural

Oudam was part of a team of BHS student-artists who designed and painted a mural at Sky Oaks Elementary School in Burnsville in December 2021.

According to Sky Oaks News, “The mural replaced an old mural of puzzle pieces in the Yellow Center at the school. The puzzle pieces represent autism, but needed to be updated to align with organization Autism Speaks standards and language surrounding autism. The group of students pooled common interests of children and people with autism and developed this amazing journey through different landscapes.”

More about Oudam…

Originally from Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital and largest city—nearly 2.3 million people, Oudam moved to the United States in 2018 at the age of 13.

“There are so many things that I miss about Cambodia, but a few things I would say are the foods, and my family and friends,” he said. “I haven’t made a visit back yet, but I do plan to do so sometime in the future.”

Oudam’s mom and dad, Sorakphy Ou and Kimchoy Ul, both work at an automotive interior manufacturing company. His sister, Mex, 21, attends Normandale Community College and is in her second year as a biology major. Mex plans to transfer soon to continue her education in the dental or biology fields.

In his free time, Oudam enjoys cooking and singing Karaoke. “I try different types of cuisine, especially Asian, because I just love foods,” he said. “I don’t really have a specific song I like because I literally sing any song that shows up in my queue.” He also enjoys helping his cousin, Erica Nguon, 20, do her makeup.

Oudam resides with his family in Eagan, Minnesota.

Three words that describe you as an Upward Bound student:

Oudam Ul gallery

More about TRIO/Upward Bound

U.S. Department of Education, TRIO/Upward Bound at Dakota County Technical College is part of the family of Federal TRIO educational opportunity outreach programs that support and motivate low-income, first-generation college students as well as students with disabilities to navigate academic environments from middle school to postgraduate programs.

The goal of Federal TRIO programs is to increase the percentage of low-income and first-generation college students who successfully pursue postsecondary education opportunities.

Upward Bound provides academic and personal support and guidance to help qualifying high school students get to college. First-generation college students participating in Upward Bound have college potential, but they may lack awareness of the many academic and career options possible after high school. Upward Bound at DCTC closes that gap.

TRIO programs ensure equal educational opportunities for all students by providing skills and information needed to overcome class, social, and cultural barriers to higher education.


Oudam Ul Q & A

Oudam Ul

What do you like best about Upward Bound?

I’ve been introduced to many great people and opportunities throughout the program.

How has Upward Bound prepared you for college?

By providing sources and access to many colleges and helping connect me with people on campus for their experience. Making sure that we are all financially, physically,and emotionally stable and independent before we’re off to college.

Three words that describe you as an artist:

What advice would you give students thinking about enrolling in Upward Bound?

You have to carefully think about what’s your goals are for the future. If you really need help with college readiness, Upward Bound is the right place for you. Be sure to fully participate and be passionate once you’re in the program so that they can provide you with the best experiences and all the advice you need.

What type of art do you like best?

Fine art—I would say because I can be very independent doing it. My favorite artist is Frida Kahlo.

What do you enjoy most about painting murals?

Play with the paints and materials and just feel free with my skills.

One word that best describes your experience in Upward Bound:


Oudam Ul 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Badminton
  2. Place you would most like to visit: The beach just about anywhere
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Learning how to ride a bike
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy a dream home 2) Invest in a beauty line 3) Donating
  5. Favorite TV series or movie you’ve seen recently: The Kadashians (on Hulu)
  6. Time period you would explore if you could time travel: The 90s
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Starting my own business
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Flamingo
  9. Dream occupation: Fashion designer
  10. Person you would most like to meet: BLACKPINK
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Playing violin
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL!!!
Learn more about TRIO/Upward Bound at DCTC by contacting:

Caitlin Siefkes
Director of TRIO/Upward Bound