SAN MARCOS — Nhi Nguyen, a recent graduate of San Marcos High School, has been recognized by AVID for her scholastic achievements.
AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a nationwide program that serves to bridge the achievement gap for underrepresented students through college readiness programs. In addition to graduating with a 4.34 weighted GPA and a 3.98 unweighted GPA, Nguyen was the recipient of AVID’s 2019 Top STEM Scholar Award.
“Nhi Nguyen is why we do what we do at AVID,” said Kayla Burrow, AVID communication specialist. “Nguyen ran with AVID’s academic opportunities. Personal challenges never limited her ambition or her work ethic. We’re thankful that the Classroom of the Future Foundation selected to support Nhi’s future goals with a scholarship.”
Nguyen also received a Bill Fuentes Scholarship as well as induction into the National Honor Society.
The accolades continue with an Outstanding Young Women in Chemistry Award by the Iota Sigma Pi National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry; the Le Grand Concours Gold Medal (French Language); and a special commendation from San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry.
Extra-curricular activities include membership in the Science Olympiad Club, the Key Club, the AVID Club, and the Excalibur Knights, a club for those who exemplify leadership and community involvement.
Nguyen was born in Vietnam and her father migrated to San Marcos in 2010 for better employment and educational opportunities for his family. Adapting to a new environment without speaking English was an arduous hurdle for Nguyen, one that established a blueprint for her ability to confront challenges without hesitation.
“I struggled academically because of the language barrier, but I didn’t let this hold me back,” she said. “I taught myself English within two years.”
Remembering the poor hospital conditions in hospitals in Vietnam, Nguyen became passionate about working in health care. In between a loaded schedule of AP and honor classes, she volunteered at Brookdale Nursing Homes and interned at Palomar Health Hospitals as a Pathmaker, where she learned “bedside patient care and how to interact with the hospital staff.”
“It was interesting to observe the symbiotic relationship between the nurses, doctors, and lab technicians,” she said. “From the doctor’s anatomical understanding to the nurses’ patient care knowledge, and the lab technicians’ chemical background, all were working toward the same goal of helping patients.”
Touting a passion for scientific research rooted from her love of chemistry, she also interned at Scripps Research Institute Engle Lab (organic chemistry) where she “transformed cheap abundant materials into complex molecules.”
“I enjoyed working with experienced scientists and being at the forefront of scientific research,” she said. “I enjoyed developing novel methods that could pave the way for making new compounds.”
Nguyen also established the Intergenerational Club at San Marcos High to bridge what she labeled the generation gap.
“Because of the dissociation I felt growing up with people from different generations, I took the initiative to create a small service project with my peers to volunteer at nursing homes, hoping to bridge this disconnection,” she said.
Nguyen’s discussions with nursing home coordinators concerning the physical and mental challenges of the elderly were included in a classroom presentation that invited students to interact — and improve — the health status of the elderly.
“I gave a class presentation about the struggles of the elderly and how we can improve these struggles by personally interacting with them,” she said. “I mobilized students from SMHS for activities such as letter-exchanging, exercises, art classes and board games.
“This project was a huge success with the students and the elderly,” she said. “Hoping to expand this effort, I founded Intergenerational Club to extend our events to different nursing homes and engage a wider community of students with the goal of bridging the generational gap.”
Nguyen noted that time management is “key to maintaining a balance between academics and extracurriculars.” Weeks are planned in advance with established priorities “to make sure that I check them off my list.”
Nguyen said she strives to “approach everything with optimism because I believe that the first step towards overcoming a challenge is to have the courage to tackle it in the first place. It’s how we perceive ourselves, not where we started, that determines our outcome.”
UC Berkeley bound to pursue a degree in chemistry, Nguyen plans to continue with a graduate degree in pharmaceutical research with prospects of inventing “new, safe and effective medications accessible for people throughout the world.”
“Pharmaceutical research is the medium through which I can explore the compelling aspect of experimentation while simultaneously helping those in need,” she said. “After interacting with a diverse range of patients, I realize the growing need for new medicines to cure proliferating diseases.”
Photo Caption: Nhi Nguyen, a recent graduate of San Marcos High School, has been recognized by AVID for her scholastic achievements. Photo courtesy Nhi Nguyen