Family Histories Program

Family Histories Program

Grateful to our 2007 Funders, Sempra Energy; Bank of America; and through The San Diego Foundation, the Digital Divide Fund, and The Hom Family Fund, the Family Histories Essay Program entered its Sixth Year and resulted in record-breaking participation – more than 270 students participated this year. The ongoing and successful partnerships with both the San Diego Unified School District and the San Diego Community College District enabled the Museum to engage a highly diverse population.

We take great pride and pleasure in sharing with you the work and creativity of some of the outstanding new American students who competed in the Museum’s annual essay competition, “Family Histories: Migrants to the United States ”. The writers are all immigrants or children and grandchildren of those who have recently come to the United States. We hope you too will be fascinated by the stories of these young people and their families who made great sacrifices to become Americans.


The Student Essay Competition: Family Histories: Migrants to the United States was created to celebrate the courage and achievements of migrants to the United States, to honor their entrepreneurial spirit and convey the dignity of their history and cultures as well as the many challenges they have faced.

Paul Tran, Preuss School UCSD, 9th grade, Vietnam

As a New American, I know that I can become just about anything that I aspire to be.  The opportunities and values that are present in the United States enable me to be educated, be cared for, and live a life that should be endowed to all individuals. I still remember that all of this would not have been made possible if it hadn’t been for the struggles of my mother.

Rodger Yan, Challenger Middle School, 7th Grade, Vietnam

New Americans have two cultures, one being their original culture and one being the American lifestyle. Children won’t know who they are or where they come from without their parents telling them. At times, I too have to struggle to hold on to my Vietnamese/Chinese heritage. If I were to give up my Vietnamese/Chinese heritage, I would be living a lie; I could not be the person that I am today.

Jihui Jin, 7th Grade, Challenger Middle School, Taiwan and China

I now understand the importance of being a new American. My parent’s generation worked hard to provide us with the best environment. It’s not enough to just live in this superior environment, but we also need to try hard and do our best to achieve our dreams. We need to show persistence and determination to succeed. We need to learn to hold the values and to never give up. Only this way can we guarantee our generation’s success and be able to maintain this superior environment for everybody who dreams of coming to America. That is what I learned from my mother about being a new American.

Hung Lam, Hoover High, 12th Grade, Vietnam

For me, being a new American means to stand up and tell people that racial prejudice and discrimination are not the only issues concerning New Americans, but all Americans, and that they should be dealt with in a manner that reflects our unity in diversity, our resilience, and our clear sense of direction.  As a New American, I want to spread the message that New Americans can work together to preserve their cultural heritage and values while becoming like crayons that introduce vivid colors and add shapes and dimensions to the portrait of America modern society.

Dasha R. Wise, La Jolla High, 12th grade, Russia

I sometimes still regret that it is impossible to be in two places at once, I also understand just how important it is to simultaneously be a part of not only two cultures, but infinitely many. Like any other American, I am only one small piece of an enormous puzzle, a piece newly added, but that had always belonged to its eventual destination.

Aslan D. Yandarov, Continuing Ed. North City Center, Russia

They made a desert in my city. The same desert came into our souls. We became refugees in our own country. My mother, who always dreamed of dying in her home, died in Moscow. My sister died a few months later. After the funeral, I was told that the military wanted me. I realized that I had to make a choice: to be arrested or killed, or to attempt to escape. We decided to leave the country…in April, 2004, we left Russia and arrived in San Diego.

Xuan An Nguyen, San Diego Mesa College, Vietnam

We came to America on a cold night in April, 2003 and on that day, our life was changed profoundly. While my parents struggled to stabilize our life with energy, my sister and I also faced a totally strange and new condition. My classmates were not as friendly as I imagined. No one spoke my native language. Like the first steps of climbing, starting to speak English was very hard. With my parent’s encouragement, I persisted. Now, although I still have not yet reached the top of the mountain yet, I am proud that I can speak English to satisfy my needs.

Santino Madut Yach, Continuing Ed. North City Center, Sudan

I still do not have any idea whether my parents are alive with my brothers and sisters or if they are all dead. We got separated by accident. There was a surprise attack on our village…. I was only five years old. I thought I would meet my parents on the way, but I never did. Coming here gave me a second chance and the beginning of a new life. Before, I was like someone affected by any kind of disease, and then when I set foot on American soil, I felt like somebody recovering from a sickness.

Maria G. Martinez, Continuing Ed. Educational Cultural Complex, Mexico

When I was eleven years old, my whole life changed. I gave up my education. All my dreams stopped… I cannot forget that day. My dream was, and still is to continue my education. I have never given up thinking about this.

Sixth Annual Family Histories Essay Competition

Award Recipients


3rd – 5th Grades 6th –8th Grades

Taylor Le Horrex
Language Academy,
5th grade Canada – FINALIST

Jihui Jin
7th grade China – FINALIST
Jenny Ha Nguyen
Hawthorne Elementary,
5th grade Vietnam – FINALIST

Mindy Le
7th grade Vietnam – FINALIST

Kenneth Suon
Hearst Elementary,
5th grade Cambodia – FINALIST

Hung N. Vo
7th grade Vietnam – FINALIST

Nina Tabrizi
Language Academy,
3rd grade Iran – FINALIST
Minn Vo
Monroe Clark,
8th grade Vietnam – FINALIST
Giovanna D. Diaz
Language Academy,
5th grade Peru – GRAND PRIZE
Rodger Yan
7th grade Vietnam – GRAND PRIZE


Immigrant students write their histories: 20 young authors honored for essays.
Link to article

By Helen Gao
May 18, 2007

9th –12th Grades SDCCD
Amor Chan
Hoover High, 12th grade
Maria Martinez
Continuing Ed. Educational Cultural Complex

Hung Lam
Hoover High, 12th grade
Vietnam – FINALIST

Xuan An Nguyen
Mesa College
Vietnam – FINALIST
Judy Phan
La Jolla, 11th grade
Vietnam – FINALIST
Santino Yach
Continuing Ed. North City Center
Dasha Wiss
La Jolla, 12th grade

Aslan Yandarov
Continuing Ed. North City Center

Paul Tran
Preuss School UCSD, 9th grade
Mark Sena
Miramar College
Philippines – GRAND PRIZE

In 2006 the Grand Prize Winner was Tu-Phuong Tran, from Vietnam, now a 12th grader at La Jolla High School. Second place went to Raul Vargas, from Mexico, now a student at San Diego City College. Joint Third Place winners were: Diana Bahena Montes de Oca, from Mexico, now an 11th grader at Point Loma High School,and Farah Hussein, from Somalia, now a 10th grader at Crawford Complex CHAMPS.

In 2005 the Grand Prize Winner was Arian Dyanat from Afghanistan. The Joint Second Prize Winners were Sadek Ibrahim from Somalia, and Mustafa Abdille (essay not available).

In 2004, the Grand Prize Winner was Doan Trang Thi Dinh from Vietnam. The two Runner-Up Prize Winners were Sofia Lana from Argentina, and Hudo Ali Ahmed from Somalia. Thirty additional winners representing 16 schools and 22 countries received finalist prizes.

In 2003, the Grand Prize Winner was Alva Monsalvo from Mexico. The three Finalist Prize Winners were Maricel-May from the Philippines, Mariam Babayan from Armenia, and Deeq Abdi from Somalia. Thirty additional winners representing 17 schools and 10 countries received finalist prizes.

In 2002 the Grand Prize Winner was Ker Thao, whose family immigrated from Laos, and the two Semi-finalist Prize Winners were Sarah Marie Esper from Uruguay and Samana Azizi from Afghanistan. Thirty additional winners representing nineteen schools and thirteen countries received finalist prizes.