“I’m going to be the first in my family to get my four-year college degree, but not the last.”
Vilai Chang is determined to succeed, no matter what. And she sees the impact her choices will have for others. When searching for colleges, Chang wanted to find the best fit for her, and wasn’t afraid to work hard to get there. “I told my mom I really, really wanted to get my college education. I promised her I would apply for scholarships, I will ask for grants, I’ll take loans out — I’ll do whatever it takes to go to college.”
Chang is the second youngest of five children in her family and the first to be earning a bachelor’s degree; she has high hopes for her little sister to follow in her footsteps. A senior at the College of Saint Benedict and studying elementary education, Chang is a recipient of the Tennant Company Diversity Scholarship, which is given to students of color who demonstrate financial need.
A large reason Chang chose Saint Ben’s was for the support of college access programs and college advising services. “At a point, I was so overwhelmed, I considered deferring for a year, but my advisors picked me back up and reminded me that I did belong at Saint Ben’s, and that I could do it.”
Now in her senior year, Chang has accomplished a lot — she organizes events for students on Saint Ben’s/Saint John’s Joint Events Council, serves as a first-year orientation leader and studied in South Africa teaching at a primary school.
Chang’s plans for after graduation include moving back to her hometown to teach. “I really want to give back to my community and teach at St. Paul public schools, mostly with lower-income families because that was my experience. I want to be a good example for my students.”