Thailand native wants students to succeed at university

Has been involved in minority organizations at Ball State, hometown.

Sam Phomsavanh has spent part of her life working with minorities, and as a native of the Asian country of Thailand, she can sympathize with them.

To her colleagues and peers, the junior chemistry major is the sort of person who is always willing to help people and promote cultural learning.

At Ball State, she has been a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority for three years and a member of the Asian-American Student Association for two years. She is currently AASA treasurer.

Phomsavanh also attends service activities with the Latino Student Union. She was an Excel Summer Program Mentor last summer, a program for freshman minority students that helps them adjust to college life on a predominately white campus.

In her hometown of Elkhart, Phomsavanh has been a part of a mentoring program for Laotian youth in the South Bend and Elkhart area for two years.

The mentoring program began as a small organization formed by the adult members of her church, the South Bend Christian Reform Church. There are about 50 Laotian-American families in the Elkhart and South Bend area, according to Phomsavanh.

"Basically, what I do is mentor youth, plan field trips and have tutoring sessions," she said. "I also help immigrant families with English classes and other services like translation. I do miss being involved in it, but when I go home, I try to do what I can."

She has not been able to help out as much as she would like because of school. Some of the adults, such as her pastor, have been taking a larger role in the youths' lives to compensate for her absence.

When one opportunity vanished, however, another took its place. Phomsavanh is helping AASA try to recruit members so the organization can stay a strong group.

"I really want to make this campus more aware of the many Asian cultures and some of our issues," she said.

Phomsavanh said it is especially hard for Asians to break out of the model minority stereotype. She said the only way to do so is to educate people about all the differences in the cultures and how great of a culture all Asians share.

Phomsavanh is from a large extended family. She regularly visits relatives in Thailand and Laos, but her immediate family resides in Elkhart.

"Sam is a very hard worker," said Terrence Frazier, assistant director of Student Organizations and Activities. "She really gives her all to help teach other people about their heritage, as well as learn more about her own activities."


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