The summer before my freshman year, I, like every other incoming freshman, was assigned to read a small blue book on the life of St. John Baptist de La Salle. Anyone teaching, working, or attending a Lasallian institution is familiar with the history of Lasallian education. St. John Baptist de La Salle began his mission with a passion for education and genuine care for the less fortunate. He knew how a proper education had the power to uplift individuals and help build not only the knowledge, but also self-esteem of students. His work began in Reims, France and eventually spread across the globe to create the international Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
Similar to La Salle, my grandparents highly valued education. My father’s parents raised a large family of three daughters and six sons in a small rural village in southern Vietnam. Despite financial restrictions, my grandparents tried their best to send their children to the best schools in the area whether it be applying to local magnet schools, working to get scholarships from private high schools and more. My father and two uncles were fortunate enough to attend one of the highest ranking high schools in the area which happened to be run by Christian Brothers; however, my father never got to graduate due to the forced shutdown of his school after his nation fell to the Vietnamese Communist party.
As my father and family migrated to the United States, he learned to quickly assimilate to the American culture. At the age of 30, he practiced hard to erase his Vietnamese accent and worked several jobs to help support his family. Many told him that going back to school was a waste of time, but similar to La Salle, my father prioritized school and knew that a solid educational foundation would set him up for a successful future. He received his bachelor’s degree a year early and was able to attend Howard University’s School of Dentistry. He credits all of his success to the core values and lessons he learned from his time at his Lasalllian high school in Vietnam.
Fast forward to 2015, I was preparing to apply to high schools. Once my father found out about St. John’s College High School and its Lasallian background, he knew that he wanted to continue the Lasallian tradition in our family. SJC had the highest tuition costs out of all the schools we were looking at, but my father tried to find any way possible to help me get there. Once I got accepted and received a generous amount of scholarships and financial aid, my father drove me to the campus to take my math placement tests for my freshman year courses.
During my exam, he walked along Heritage Hallway admiring the class pictures dating back from the late 1800s to present-day 2010s and the military history display near the 27th street entrance. After I came out of my exam, he said he was so excited to see one of his children continue the Lasallian legacy in my family after my older cousin Paul attended Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Md. My father told me never in a million years could he imagine that he would be able to send one of his kids to a beautiful Lasallian school like his parents fought so hard to do.
As a soon to be graduating senior, I can proudly say I will be the first female in my family to receive a high school diploma from a Lasallian institution. I walked into St. John’s with the goal to finish what my father had started and knew I wanted to graduate since my father could not. St. John Baptist de La Salle’s community truly does extend beyond international borders and my family’s story is no exception. Without the work of La Salle, my family would not be able to achieve the freedom and success we are fortunate to have today. In the spirit of Founder’s Week, I hope St. John Baptist de La Salle’s legacy continues to help families in need just like it was able to help mine. Despite not being able to physically gather, I know the SJC community will continue to celebrate and remember the work started in Reims, France and continuing in our homes everyday.