Thao started mentoring with Upward Bound in the fall of 2009. His mentee is John Lee, a senior from Humboldt High School. Thao was born in Visalia, Calif., and has three brothers and two sisters. His family moved to Minnesota in the summer of 2000. He started his 8th grade year at Humboldt Jr. High and continued his education at Humboldt High School. His older sister was a Humboldt Upward Bound student, and she introduced him to the program. After applying and completing the interview process, he was accepted into the UB family. Thao says that UB gave him a place to study after school, and provided him with support from the staff, especially from former UB staffers Liz and Heather. Not only did they give support with homework, they helped broaden his options after high school. He appreciated the college preparatory, college applications, and FAFSA events held by UB.
Thao says that he doesn’t know if he would have gone to college without UB, and is thankful for the exposure to college environments and courses provided by UB. He enjoyed the UB summer programs, because through them, he met new people and created lasting memories and friendships. Thinking back, Thao says, “Every year and summer was a very important contribution to my education and my success in going to college. UB is the reason I attended St. Olaf College.” Overall, he enjoyed the summer laughter, friendships, activities, and knowledge he gained from his UB experience.
Thao graduated from St. Olaf in 2009 with a major in Asian Studies. One of the highlights of his college career was an opportunity to participate in the St. Olaf study abroad program. He was able to participate in the Term in Asia program for five months, traveling to Japan, China, Thailand and Vietnam. Currently, Thao is working full time at Chrestomathy, while working part-time at Target. Chrestomathy is a non-profit day program for adults who have a mental disability. Thao is a program trainer who provides supervision and job coaching to the program participants.
In his free time, he enjoys playing flag football, volleyball, and basketball. In the future, he hopes to become a police officer. He wants to go back to school in the next two to three years to get his law enforcement certificate. From his UB mentoring experience, he hopes to help his mentee gain knowledge about college and career choices. His words of wisdom for the current UB students are: “If you can master time management and studying now, you will succeed in your future college career.”