Tags Posts tagged with "Nguyen"


0 13715

Charlotte Reilly

University of Nebraska at Omaha sophomore Jimmy Nguyen has been selected as a Newman Civic Fellow, a national award recognizing students’ dedication to community service.

Nguyen is one of 273 students to receive the award.

Nguyen was nominated by Constance Sorensen-Birk. So-rensen-Birk is his mentor for Project Achieve, a federally funded pro-gram that assists first generation college students, low income students and students with disabilities.

“Jimmy is tireless in his community work,” Sorensen-Birk said. “He is a leader in all of his college service groups.”

Nguyen was interviewed by staff at the Community Engagement Center and then selected by Chancellor John Christensen to represent UNO as its nominee.

He received an email at the end of March stating he was selected for the award.

“I was surprised and shocked but very happy,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen started volunteering be-cause he wanted to break social barriers and teach inclusiveness.

“From when I was born to when I was five I didn’t know any English,” Nguyen said. “My household spoke strictly Vietnamese. Kindergarten was very difficult for me. I didn’t understand how to talk to anybody. I didn’t know what was going on. I could read shapes and numbers, but communicating was very difficult.”

It was hard for Nguyen to make friends throughout elementary and middle school because of social barriers

“Through community service, I break down the social barrier that held me back once,” Nguyen said. “You can’t always change the bad that is happening now. You can’t change people’s opinions overnight. What you can do is instill the morals and qualities in the next generation.”

Nguyen is a biology major with a double minor in chemistry and medical humanities. He is taking the pre-pharmacy track at UNO. He also helps take care of his grandmother and girlfriend who both have cancer.

Still, he finds time to volunteer.

Nguyen is on student government, helped an international student get a translation of the Maverick Payment Plan, is working on a mural project for the library, is part of Students Against Hunger and helped found the South Sioux Student Association.

The South Sioux Student Association started with 14 members last year but has increased to about 50 members.

“I’m pretty proud of us because we went from a small club to an actual organization,” Nguyen said.

He credits his mentors, including Sorensen-Birk for his love of community service.

“You need to find the right people to be around to inspire you to volunteer,” Nguyen said. “My mentors have encouraged me and connected with me on a personal level.”

Sorensen-Birk said Nguyen is the one who has inspired her.

“Jimmy has changed my life. What he is doing is incredible and inspiring. If a very young man with all these burdens can do that, I know I can do more,” Sorensen-Birk said. “A lot of people think of community service as an event, but it’s clear to me that it is integrated into his life.”

Sorensen-Birk said volunteering gives students a new perspective, and she hopes other students follow Nguyen’s example of service.

“When you volunteer, you reach an understanding that one person can make a difference in the world,” Sorensen-Birk said. “Just one day of work changes something for somebody That’s pretty empowering.”

0 14756
Photo Courtesy of UNO Wheelchair Basketball Fans

Cassie Wade

The path to college was not always in Alex Nguyen’s plans, but after being injured in Afghanistan, Nguyen’s plans changed to include a college degree and wheelchair basketball career at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Nguyen, who is a first-year student, was a combat engineer in the Marines for nine years. On Sept. 20, 2011, Nguyen and three other Marines were injured in an IED explosion. Both of his ankles were shattered and his left ankle and foot were broken.

“In July of 2013, my right leg got amputated,” Nguyen said. “As of right now, I’m in the process of trying to save my left leg.”

Nguyen said he originally planned to spend his career in the Marine Corps. After his injury, he was told he would have to take a desk job, which he did not want.

“Up to that point, I’d been shot at and fought in the war,” Nguyen said. “I knew there was no way I was going to be able to just sit at a desk.”

Nguyen’s doctor encouraged him to think about going to college after seeing the x-rays of his legs.

“That’s when it kind of clicked in my head, like ok, maybe I should start thinking about life outside the Marines,” Nguyen said. “After that, that’s when it became a reality of me starting school.”

Nguyen said he was originally interested in pursuing a degree in physical therapy due to the combat injuries of one of his closest friends.

“He got injured in combat and lost a leg,” Nguyen said. “I felt bad and I thought well, what can I do to help my buddies and others that get hurt in Afghanistan? It came to mind that I could be a physical therapist and help these guys get back to 100 percent.”

Nguyen’s recovery process for his own combat injuries led him towards a career in physical therapy.

“My very first physical therapist told me she knew what I was going through, and I’m literally laying in the hospital bed with my two legs strung up … and she’s standing there on her two legs,” Nguyen said. “If someone comes in with a broken leg and they tell me I don’t know the pain they’ve gone through, I can say hey, check out my leg.”

After starting school at UNO, Nguyen said his career goals have changed as more possibilities opened up.

“Being in college, everything is kind of changing because I’m in a different environment,” Nguyen said. “I’m taking classes I’ve never thought I would take, like gerontology, which was actually really interesting to me.”

Nguyen chose to pursue a degree at UNO in order to play wheelchair basketball, which he said has enabled him to meet new people and make friends.

The main difference between wheelchair basketball and basketball is the strategy of the game, said to Nguyen. The rules and regulations are the same except “you can’t dunk.”

“We go to tournaments and we’re playing two to three games a day two days in a row,” Nguyen said. “It’s just as competitive as any other sport.”

Nguyen’s wheelchair basketball teammate Jeromie Meyer, who described Nguyen as “hardworking,” said he brings humor to the team.

“He brings the best out of dull situations and stays very positive,” Meyer said. “He’s really competitive because he wants to win.”