“I think with Summer Search, everyone hears the same thing first,” said Angie Ngo, 19. “First, it’s like, you know, ‘Free trips in the summer!’ But you don’t really know that it’s more like a mentorship.”
And a mentorship was exactly what Angie needed after her freshman year of high school. “I wasn’t able to talk about my family situation at all before Summer Search,” Angie said. “But now I’m comfortable with it, and I’m not embarrassed anymore by what I had to go through growing up, and that’s all because of Summer Search.”
Both of Angie Ngo’s parents were political refugees. “My mom was in the Khmer Rouge, and my dad was born in Vietnam,” she said. “They came here in the 80s, and they had my sister here in 1989, and then they had me and my brother. And my younger brother is autistic and he has epilepsy. So that was difficult growing up. My sister and I had to help our parents a lot. I had to go to all of my brother’s doctor’s appointments, because my parents didn’t know much English.”
And if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, when Angie was 10, her dad developed schizophrenia and paranoia. “That was all really hard for me growing up,” she said. “So I guess, in a sense, I grew up being a caretaker for both my brother and my dad, and also helping my mom because of the whole language barrier. And I think because of all that, I found education as my getaway, in a sense. Because it was the one thing I could have control over.”
Before Summer Search, Angie used education as a way to get away from home and keep from getting caught up in gangs. During her time at Andrew Hill High School in south San Jose, she stayed after school almost every day and studied.
And today, Angie has followed her love of education all the way to UC-Berkeley, where she’s just finished her freshman year with a full-ride scholarship from the Incentive Awards Program. “I’m hoping to go into Business Administration with a minor in Education,” she said. “Eventually, I want to work in education policy. After all that education has done for me, I think I want to give back to others through education.”
Lately Angie’s also been giving back to others by getting involved with Best Buddies, a non-profit volunteer program that creates friendships with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I wouldn’t be the same person that I am now if not for Summer Search,” Angie said. “They’re really good at their job. Whenever I’d try to hide something, or something was bothering me and I didn’t want to say, my mentors at Summer Search never let me change the subject. And the best thing with them, they never pitied me, they just listened and offered advice and helped me reflect and understand things and deal with things myself. The mentoring was really the biggest part of Summer Search for me.”
But the trips were amazing for Angie, too. “My first trip was a wilderness adventure in Alaska with Outward Bound,” she said. “And I did kayaking and backpacking, and I learned a lot about communication and about my own strength, both physically and emotionally.”
For her second trip, Angie went to Panama, and lived with a family there. “Panama was really interesting,” she said, “because the dynamic was really different from what I grew up with at home. And it helped me appreciate what I have, and it gave me perspective, and I got to work on my Spanish.” Angie still keeps in close contact with her Panama host family.
“The biggest thing that Summer Search taught me is how to reflect,” Angie said. “I think that being able to reflect on your actions just makes you a better person, in general, for now and for the future.”