Student Voice: They’re Rooting for Me

By Xuan Nguyen ’19

Xuan Nguyen ’19 recently spoke at an event honoring donors who have supported Punahou’s financial aid program. 

When I got my acceptance letter to Punahou for sixth grade, I was thrilled. I had toured the campus and seen the neat features – sleek buildings, colorful chairs and a lily pond! After the initial excitement wore down, the reality of attending a private school set in. How was my family going to pay for it? When I was in public school, I qualified for free lunch, and it was difficult to imagine how my Punahou education would be subsidized. Was it even justified for me to go?

My parents, however, decided to trust the process. We applied for financial aid, and received it that initial year, as well as the next six years. I will be graduating from Punahou this summer and heading to college to study nursing.

When I first arrived at Punahou, it was hard to think about how attending the School would fundamentally change my life. Now reflecting on my seven-year journey, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities and people I’ve met at this school for helping me learn and grow. I’m in a place where I feel ready to move on to the next chapter of my life, with confidence and a stronger sense of myself.

The best part of Punahou for me has been being part of the Oahuan. I joined the Yearbook Club in my sophomore year, and this turned out to be important to my sense of belonging at Punahou. At first, even though I didn’t know any of the editors, I would go to the Oahuan room to correct spreads and relax. Over time, I became really comfortable there, and I chose to stay in the club my junior and senior years. I liked that there was an eclectic mix of personalities and talents. I’m now an index editor of the Oahuan, and I wouldn’t trade my whole experience for anything. I became really close to my fellow editors, and we all take a lot of pride in our efforts to create the yearbook each year.

I know all of the experiences I’ve been so lucky to have were made possible because of the generous donors to Punahou’s financial aid program, who believe in me and the future of all the other recipients. 

I was recently asked to speak at a School event honoring these donors, so I got to meet many of these people and thank them in person. I was initially nervous about speaking to this group. I’ve spoken before in front of large crowds, but I felt that whatever I said should represent not just my experiences, but those of other financial aid recipients. While looking at their faces, I felt the gravity of the situation, but I also felt great appreciation for them. I realized that they were rooting for me, so there was nothing to be nervous about. 

Now, with graduation and college ahead, I can look back clearly at my time at Punahou and acknowledge what I’ve gained from the experience. And what really matters to me is what comes after and how I can give back. I’ve heard President Jim Scott ’70 say: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And when I think about my experiences and things like the school’s PUEO program, it’s made me think about how Punahou gives back to the community. 

Moving forward, I don’t want to just graduate and move on. If there’s any way I can stay connected and help students like me, that’s what I want to do. That’s the route I want to take.

More Student Voices:
Anna Bunn ’19: Life Changing Journey

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