Beat the Odds: Sim Net Youk

Posted at: 02/22/2013 9:30 PM
By: Betsy Singer

(ABC 6 News) -- We live in a country where there is little most of us lack. In many parts of the world America is considered paradise even the brutal cold of Minnesota.

Sim Net Youk says, "That’s what Cambodians think, that it’s paradise."

That is what Net Youk thought when he was a child. That’s because he grew up in third-world conditions in the capitol city of Cambodia. When Net was just 8-years-old, his parents left him and his sister to find a better life in America, more specifically Rochester, MN. He was a little boy left in a world where poverty and crime ruled the streets on which he lived.

"In Cambodia you can go to the market and see people with broken arms and broken legs and some of them old and beg for money," Net said.

When he and his sister were brought to Minnesota to be reunited with their parents, the reality of paradise soon hit.

"I think it’s very hard. Hard but I can accept it because it’s life but it’s hard, different.  The way the people talk, the language, the food, basically everything. Having been born in a different country and you have to adjust to it."

Net was placed in Kathy Wilson’s program within the school district, Upward Bound, where immigrant students are given resources to help them cope in a foreign land.

"Net, when he first came in the program, was a student of very little words.  He was very shy and his English was very limited and his daily meal consisted of just plain rice," Richardson said.

But through his four short years in high school this shy boy has evolved into an accomplished young man. He even teaches at the Cambodian school where he helps others adjust to their new American lives.

"He is an individual that has come a long way.  I know all the recipients have a story to tell and are very deserving…but to me, Net, to see a lot of this devastation and to honor his grandfather’s wishes to go on and get a good education never left him," said Richardson.

"I think you should believe in the possibility, anything can happen, believe in yourself and if bad things or obstacles come to you, you can overcome it if you are determined. In life, nothing is easy, everyone has issues and you should overcome your issues," Net concluded.