Anallely Nguyen is no stranger to hard work.
The firstborn child of Vietnamese immigrants, she knows hard work is what has created opportunity and fueled her success.
Although she was born in the U.S., Nguyen didn’t learn English until kindergarten. Until age 7, she was raised by her Vietnamese-speaking grandparents while her parents worked long hours as nail technicians, and later nail salon owners, to support their large family.
Now 21, Nguyen, who goes by Ana, is among the first group of students at Georgia State to graduate with a bachelor of science degree in public health. She’s also the first person in her immediate family to finish college. Her parents’ educations ended before high school.
“My parents gave up a lot for me,” she said. “They had no choice but to work. If my parents didn’t work, there was no food.”
During college, Nguyen took care of her two brothers, helping them with homework, making sure they got to football and orchestra practice, and attending their high school parent-teacher conferences.
She also worked 10-hour shifts as receptionist, bookkeeper and nail technician at her family’s salon Fridays through Sundays — days when she didn’t have classes or her internship at the Georgia Department of Public Health. She also taught Sunday school at Our Lady of Vietnam Catholic Church in Riverdale, Ga.
Nguyen plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health and hopes to become an epidemiologist working to prevent diabetes and heart disease — chronic diseases that killed her paternal grandparents.
Nguyen said her desire to make a better life for herself and her family gave her the energy to balance the demands of full-time studies with home life and work.
“I want to do better for myself, and I knew I needed an education to get out of this cycle,” she said.
—Story by Kathleen Baydala Joyner