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Kim Tran is overcoming the odds

Kieu-Tu 'Kim' Tran, Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
Kieu-tu “Kim” Tran's life has been many things, but easy isn't one of them.

Tran was born into a life of instability and abuse, struggling to find the bare necessities, like a stable home or regular meals. She spent much of her life living with different relatives, sometimes in basements or even once out of her brother's car. Through her difficulties, the 18-year-old never lost her spark.

Rather, Tran gravitated toward school, both academics and extracurricular activities. School became a refuge for Tran, a place where she could be comfortable, safe and excel.

“School was where I wanted to be.” Tran said.

After bouncing from Park View to Annandale to Dominion, Tran is now thriving. She's a cheerleader, a PEER mentor, on the student council and has taken multiple AP classes. Outside of school, she works two jobs.

And, thanks to the work of the administration and guidance department at Dominion High School, she's finally found a stable home life, living with Scott Russell, a teacher at Dominion, and his family.

“He would always invite me over to have dinner on Sundays,” Tran said. “I lived in a really unstable basement, so I used to do homework at his house. The whole family is awesome.”

Though she doesn't like to think about her past, Tran recognizes her background has helped her in her activities as a leader and PEER mentor.

“I think I'm more empathetic,” Tran said. “My experiences have helped me grow as a person. I'm able to not be so immature. I can understand from other people's views.”

Tran's desire to help people doesn't appear to be waning; her goals include studying psychology to eventually become a psychologist or psychiatrist.

“I want to be some sort of mental health professional,” Tran said. “So many people are broken.”

Currently, she's still waiting to hear from the colleges she's applied to, but has her fingers crossed for Virginia Tech. Tran recently received the DC “Beat the Odds” scholarship, a $10,000 award given to students who have overcome adversity and yet still manage to give back to the community, to help supplement her education.

But one of Tran's ultimate goals isn't academic at all. Rather, she wants to have a family and ensure the cycle of abuse doesn't continue.

“My main goal in life is to have my only family. I'm so excited to have my own kids and treat them the way I wish I had been treated,” Tran said. “I want to work so hard now that when I'm older and they're young, they don't have to work as hard.”

Instead of being resentful or downtrodden, Tran is instead proud of the accomplishments she's made and excited at what's to come.

“I feel unstoppable,” Tran confides. “I feel like I can do whatever I want, as long as I work hard.”

Kieu-Tu 'Kim' Tran, Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
Name: Kieu-tu ‘Kim’ Tran

School: Dominion

Age: 18

Accomplishments: PEER, cheerleading, National Honor Society, Readers Are Leaders volunteer, Psychology Club, Student Council, Children's Defense Fund “Beat the Odds” honoree, Wegman's barista

What's next: Waiting to hear from Virginia Tech, Christopher Newport, University of Virginia and William and Mary, Tran would like to pursue a career in mental health.

Back to Future Leaders 2013


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