We Want You Back Success Story: Kou Yang

Posted at: 10/10/2013 7:34 AM
Updated at: 10/10/2013 5:18 PM
By: Laura Lee

(ABC 6 News) -- It's an inspirational story of a school district not willing to give up on its students.

Rochester Public Schools and United Way of Olmsted County are teaming up for their second annual We Want You Back campaign on Oct. 12.  But this year, one student is a testament that is event changes lives.

After a long days work, Kou Yang is walking to class.

"Being a Hmong person is really hard," says Yang.

Yang is a 21-year-old Hmong high school student at the Alternative Learning Center in Rochester.

And being Hmong means, Kou puts his family first.   

"Everything was hard on our family, we were struggling to pay bills and they needed some of us to work," says Yang, the fourth oldest of eight children.

Both parents working opposite shifts and long hours leaving Kou to raise his younger siblings.

"When I turned sixteen, my mom asked me if I could work and help out," he recalls, "and so I decided to drop out.

At 17, Kou dropped out from John Marshall High School and started working to help his family.  At some points, even working three jobs at a time.

"I just gotta do what I gotta do to help the family survive," he says.

But last October it was his turn to get some help.  "It just surprised me, I was really shocked, I was like, really there is a program like this?" says Yang.

We Want You Back volunteers knocked on his door and invited Kou to return to school to get his diploma.

"My dad was telling me you have to go to school, you're not doing this for us, you're doing this for yourself in the future," says Yang.

With his parents' blessing, Kou is walking his own path now.

"I felt happy and sad at the same time, I'm happy to be going back to school, but part of me is sad because part of me is leaving them.

But not for long, because after one year, Kou is looking forward to graduating in January.

"Were you glad that they came to your door?" asked ABC 6 News Anchor Laura Lee.

"Yes, if they would've never came to my door, I wouldn't know what it would be like right now," he says,"even though you got a lot of things on your shoulder, you shouldn't put school behind."

"Are you proud of yourself?" Lee asked.

"Yes, I'm very proud."

Peb zoo siab thiab.  *In Hmong that means, we are too. 

Yang says he is interested in pursuing engineering in college.

As for this year's event, "We Want You Back" kicks off Saturday, October 12, at 9 a.m.