Unable to speak English only six years ago, Mai Mai now has the responsibility of speaking for all Natomas Unified students as the district’s new Student Trustee.
The 17-year-old Inderkum High School senior took her oath of office for the Board of Trustees at Wednesday night’s public meeting. She replaces Natomas High’s Jadon Johnson, who graduated from high school last year.
Mai is honored, surprised and excited by her selection adding, “I love working with people, and I want to challenge myself.” She’s friendly, quick to smile, and has an obvious sense of humor – for example, she quips that having the same first and last name is “a great conversation starter.”
NUSD’s Student Trustee plays an essential role by casting a preferential vote on the Board of Trustees – a vote that may not make or break a Board decision but counts as an important symbol of student opinion.
Since immigrating from Vietnam to the United States when she was 11 or 12, Mai not only has learned the English language but has excelled at NUSD, with accomplishments at Inderkum that include:
Earning a 4.55 grade point average
Participating in the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program, recognized by top colleges and universities nationwide
Speaking three languages – Vietnamese, French and English
Playing the flute and oboe in the school band
Participating in the National Honor Society
Helping to create a Model United Nations Club
Her success at Inderkum is no surprise, since she was a straight-A student at Natomas Middle School while learning the English language. As an 8th-grader, she was selected for a district “Every Student Succeeding” award, given to students who overcome obstacles to achieve success.
In the nomination form for “Every Student Succeeding” four years ago, then-Principal Shea Borges wrote that Mai spends “countless hours after school and on the weekends working on classwork and reading.”
After noting NMS teachers and programs that helped Mai along the way, Borges wrote at the time: “Mai’s success, though, is not really about the teachers, the school, or the district programs. Mai’s accomplishments are due to the effort and heart she puts into her schoolwork and goals.”
Asked this week about her future, Mai said she wants to attend UC Davis or UCLA and study Biotechnology for a possible career in medical research. She spent this summer learning more about chemistry at UC Davis because, she said, she loves science so much.
Mai said her parents sacrificed everything to leave Vietnam so she could pursue education in the United States. She’ll never forget that. Her definition of success, she said, is to enjoy happiness with her parents “knowing that I always satisfy them – and they’re proud of me.”