Angie Stout
Angie Stout, ’15, stood outside a science lab listening to an 18-year-old student admit to being nervous as she hadn’t had the class since a sophomore in high school. “It had been over 20 years since I’d had science,” said Stout with a laugh. But she didn’t doubt herself.  She knew she could learn. “I’ve always loved to read and there’s a lot of learning in reading,” Stout said. She made it past the science class and on May 9, she graduated cum laude, earning with a bachelor’s degree in English with teacher licensure. Her third attempt at college proved the charm. After graduating from Cedarville High School in 1985, she enrolled at Westark Community College. During the day, she worked full time at a factory and tried to take classes at night toward her business major. She quit school.
Vi Tran
Vi Tran moved with her family from Vietnam to Fort Smith five years ago in search of a better future through a quality education, and she’s finding it at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. “I was born in Vietnam and lived there for 13 years,” Tran said. “My parents moved here for my sister and me, so we would have a better education and better future with more opportunity.” Tran, a sophomore bio-chemistry major who graduated from Southside High School, hopes to attend medical school in Mount Sinai in New York and begin a career as a surgeon. It’s a daunting profession requiring years of schooling, and it begins with a four-year baccalaureate degree from UAFS. “I keep thinking that somebody from a bigger school might be learning something that I won’t here, but I’m realizing that I’m learning the same things that people are learning at bigger schools,” she said. “I think UAFS is better for me emotionally, being this close to home, and it’s preparing me just as well academically for a career in the medical field.”
Sylvia Nguyen
When Sylvia Nguyen thinks about her future, she also considers her family’s recent past. Specifically, she looks to her parents’, who emigrated from Vietnam as teenagers. “I do want to make them proud,” she said. “They want me to have a better life than what they have, like so many other immigrants.” In 1975, Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith became one of four entry points for Vietnamese fleeing their homeland after the end of the Vietnam War. In that effort, dubbed “Operation New Life,” more than 50,000 refugees went through Fort Chaffee. While many moved to other areas of the United States, some stayed, like Nguyen’s parents, and created a thriving Vietnamese community in Fort Smith.
Mayra Esquivel
After a semester at UAFS, Mayra Esquivel registered for only one class in the spring. When her concerned advisor asked why, she refused to answer. “I didn’t want to be termed a criminal,” said the pre-med major. Fear kept her in the shadows, bound by secrecy. At 3 years old, Esquivel’s mother brought her north from Mexico to join her father, who had taken the same trip to find work to care for his family. She grew up celebrating the Fourth of July, studying U.S. history and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, dreaming of a bright tomorrow. She earned straight As, joined clubs and made the honor society. But dark cloud shadowed her future.
Tony Jones
By any definition, Tony Jones had an adventurous summer. In May, the junior traveled to Spain as part of the Chancellor’s Leadership Council Scholarship class. Then one day after he returned to Fort Smith, he again boarded a plane. This time he was bound for Washington, D.C., and an internship in the office of Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. From studying Spanish and living with a host family in Salamanca, Spain, to getting a glimpse of how the Senate operates, Jones found himself exploring new worlds. “Through these opportunities I came to realize that a key to living a fulfilled life is being able to step out of your comfort zone and reach for what’s out there,” he said.