Humans of Khmer America

Mony Reangsey Chau

My name is Mony Reangsey Chau. I’m 22 years old and was born and raised in East Side Long Beach, CA. There’s always been a something in my life that pushed me to be stronger everyday. Whether it was taking a one-hour bus ride home from school, dodging getting jumped by different people, and staying away from all the negative influences associated with Long Beach. The main thing I want people to get from my story is the importance of venturing out and challenging yourself to be better for the next generation. Our generation of Cambodian Americans was the offspring of the families affected by the Khmer Rouge and the effects are still visible with some. I am living proof that you can succeed regardless of your circumstances. By the time I started my senior year of high school I knew I wanted to go to college; but I also knew that I had no way to pay for it. I had two options: join the military or get a scholarship. I spent days and nights applying for scholarships hoping I would get one. I got rejection after rejection and my spirit was starting to dwindle. One day I got called into the main office at school. I thought it was because I had been late to school so many times since Lakewood High was such a far bus ride from the East Side. To my surprise, the counselor told me I was eligible for the Gates Millennium Scholarship. I saw who else was in the office figuring out the news and I thought to myself, “No fucking way, there’s so many people in here that are way smarter and better than.” I pushed the application off to the side and didn’t look at it again. It wasn’t until a boring day during winter break I decided to apply. There were the basic demographics, (name, grades, awards, etc.) and 8 essays. That’s right, 8 essays. I knocked them all out in one day, spoke from my heart, told the truth, and submitted them. I had my counselor and JROTC instructor fill out my recommendations and that was it. I forgot I even applied because I never thought I would get it . On April 18, 2011, I became a Gates Millennium Scholar.

I currently go to San Diego State University and majoring in Kinesiology. Upon graduation, I plan to pursue a Master’s of Public Health while simultaneously completing my pre-requisites for osteopathic medical school. Once I become a doctor, I want to go back and serve my community and be able to give everyone access to healthcare and also instill the value of prevention into the lives of others.

I have only met one Khmer Gates Millennium Scholar out of hundreds that I’ve met.

I never really thought about my perception of Cambodian Americans. Thinking back to how I perceived things when I was younger, I would probably say Cambodians are ghetto. Fast-forward to today, I would say Cambodians are under estimated. Cambodians are some of the hardest working people I know. Always grinding against the odds even with the lack of resources around. That’s something I hope to help change.

I love staying active. Things I enjoy are working out, hiking, and going to the beach.

Both of my older brothers have always been the role models in my life. I didn’t have the best dad to set the example for me but they always stepped in and took care of me and made sure I was fed and clothed. To this day, I look up to them because of all the success they have achieved in their lives. Even with all their success, they always strive for more.

I’ve never been to Cambodia, but I have been to Vietnam. Traveling to Cambodia is definitely on my bucket list among other things such as learning how to surf and serving my community.

The biggest problem right now within the Cambodian community in the US is the lack of education. Only 13% of Cambodians in CA have a college degree and there is a 40% high school dropout rate. This is a direct effect of the genocide and the murders of all the educated in Cambodia. As a culture, we need to stand up and educate ourselves. College is not only to find a job anymore. College is so you can become a leader for your community so that you ensure everyone grows stronger, together. We need our voices heard in different industries and we need to prove that we are not the bottom of the barrel among other Asian cultures.

I hope my story can inspire the next generation to make a difference in the world. Our generation is in a time where we’re cleaning up the mess created by the previous generations. I hope I can inspire them with my words and the success I was able to achieve. My road is not over and I hope they can see that their road never ends as well.

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