Student Spotlight: Nay Lay

Nay Lay came to the United States from Thailand as a refugee He was born in Burma (renamed Myanmar in 1989). An opportunity to come to the US came in the form of Nay’s grandmother applying for the family to leave Thailand to start a new life here in the United States and have better opportunities.  Nay was happy and surprised when his grandmother included him in the application. With limited supports here in Rochester, Nay and his family reached out to other Karenni people to who spoke their language and would help them with understanding the area and being successful.
At 19, Nay was interested in going to school and learning the English language. He enrolled in high school but was only able to stay for 2 years because of his age. He gained stronger abilities to speak English and started working at a restaurant.

“I knew I needed something more [than working at the restaurant] to be more independent. As I got older, I said, ‘I can’t keep this up’ so I wanted to learn mechanics and learn something new.”

After almost 5 years at the restaurant, Nay was helping a friend with citizenship and translating documents when he read about the Office of Adult and Career Education Services (OACES). He received help from a staff member there, Quyen, who helped him learn about opportunities in the Mechanics (Automotive) Program.  Nay enrolled in the program in January and was also taking English language classes to increase his fluency.
In March, OACES had to close their building and students, like Nay, learned new ways to gain the skills they needed and still continue learning the material for their classes.  Automotive students were encouraged to watch YouTube videos and attend virtual classes with their instructor as well as do online research to understand the processes and tools they would be using when classes were able to meet in person again.

“There is so much to know and learn and computers can help you. I feel like it has enlightened me to know I can learn even on my own and learn more than I had before.”

Nay told me about how he really missed being able to have a tool in his hand, feel the weight of it, and do the work himself.  He said that after 10 years in the country he wished that he had learned about the opportunities with OACES sooner and started earlier.  The variety of learning options was a shock to him and he was excited to be a part of it.

Final piece of advice from Nay: “It’s never too late to start something new.  Rochester has people from all different countries getting opportunities. Going to college is a lot of money but there is so much to learn at places like OACES. Great program and people to help you.”

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