By Francis Chau
2015 Gonzaga graduate, sociology and criminal justice
My parents immigrated to Spokane, Washington, when I was just one year old in 1993, to give me and my sister Ann (’16 biology) a future that they knew was not possible back in Viet Nam. Throughout my life, I did not realize the number of sacrifices my parents have made for my sister and me, and I am so thankful for everything they have done to ensure that we could have better lives than what they were given.
My mother, Anna Nguyen, was a kindergarten teacher for 15 years before moving to Spokane. She was the first person in my life to instill in me that education was important. Similar to Father Joe, an Opus Prize finalist from Thailand, she would always tell my sister and I, “Go to School, Go to School, Go to School.” Growing up, she made sacrifices for me and my sister so that we could attend private school. My father, Lan Chau, was a prisoner of war for five years when he was fighting alongside the Americans during the Viet Nam War. He is one of the most humble individuals I have ever met. He focuses his attention on others, and loves volunteering his time to them. His leadership and voice in the Vietnamese community has inspired me in more ways than one. He was the reason I chose to join organizations so that my voice would be heard, and why I followed my passion. If it wasn’t for my father, I would not be in the states right now, I would not have been given the opportunity to attend Gonzaga, and I definitely would not be graduating with two bachelor’s degrees.
My parents taught me to give thanks with my time and volunteer work; to help others as if they were our brothers and sisters. We have always lived under the poverty line, but that never stopped us from giving back to the community. Being of a lower socioeconomic status, we have been humbled by the help we have received from others. Supporters always have been helpful to my sister and me no matter how small they might think it is.
My parents have never allowed our socioeconomic status be a deterrent of us participating in activities that would help us grow. I was vastly aware of the limitations of what my parents could provide us but that never stopped them from encouraging us to apply and attend leadership conferences to gain experience. Since the seventh grade, I have attended more conferences than I could count on both hands, and that all started because my parents believed in my leadership abilities and what I would gain from attending these conferences. As many people know about me, I absolutely hate standing in front of people and speaking; however, this year I have attended seven conferences in which I was a guest speaker or presenter. Even though it has taken many years for me to get to that place, my parents have supported me endlessly because they knew I would one day be able to do what I set my mind on.
My sister and I want to give back, not only to the community, but to our family, as well. We want to show our appreciation for their sacrifices and their dedication to giving us the best type of education. I am blessed to say that because of my parents’ support, I will be headed to the Tri Cities area this summer as a Teach for America Corps member, following my mother’s footsteps and teaching elementary education for two years as I pursue my master’s in education as well. Afterwards, I plan to pursue my master’s in higher education or social work and continue helping others in my community, similar to what my father has done in the Vietnamese community. They have truly inspired me to be the person who I am today. Without their guidance, I would not be on my journey to go forth and set the world on fire. My parents exemplify what it means to be a men and women for and with others, and I hope one day, I can make an impact in my community as my parents have.
Francis Chau is the recipient of Act VI and Mary Stuart Rogers scholarships, among others, which made a Gonzaga education possible. Her parents were one of two families honored as Gonzaga’s “families of the year.” Read more about those special parents here.