My Tungkongnuch is a helper and a scholar
Nuttavadee Tungkongnuch decided when she was a little girl and watched her father die of liver cancer that she would go into a medical field to help people like her dad who were sick and suffering.
Nuttavadee, called "My" by everyone, is now an 18 year-old senior at Gresham High School and preparing to enter the pre-nursing program at Portland's Concordia University in the fall.
A powerhouse at Gresham High, she serves as student body president, sings in the school's highly-regarded choirs and juggles a dizzying array of activities and a punishing course load, all while maintaining a 3.8 grade point average.
"The thing I truly like doing is just helping people when I get the chance," she told The Outlook.
Ty Gonrowski, leadership teacher and activities director at Gresham High School, said of her, "My is one of the most outstanding young women I've been able to work with in my time at Gresham High School."
My got a head start on her nursing career by attending the Center for Advanced Learning, a charter school in Gresham focused on career and technical education. Students attend CAL for a half-day in their junior and senior years. My is on the medical track at CAL.
Ever practical, she's also drawn to the career because it provides a family-wage job to support her and her family. "My family always pushed for the medical field because it's a stable profession," she said.
Born in Southern California, My and her mom and older brother traveled back to Thailand for a year when she was in second grade, because her father, who had remained in the country, was gravely ill with liver cancer. After his death, the family moved to Portland and then to Gresham in 2008.
The family speaks Thai at home.
My counts student council as her favorite class, but also enjoys CAL's challenging anatomy class.
A recent highlight for My was the choir's trip to New York City in March. The choir sang at the famous St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
"It was so fun. We were there for five days. We went to all the historic places like the 9/11 Memorial and the Statue of Liberty," she said. They also visited the Empire State Building and Central Park.
They took in two Broadway musicals, "Anastasia" and the revival of "Hello Dolly" starring the legendary Bernadette Peters as Dolly Levi.
My loves to travel.
"Just being in the airport makes me happy," she said.
My works after school and on weekends. She's a barista at Black Rock Coffee Bar, but has also worked at Del Taco and Heidi's restaurants in Gresham.
She has moved in and out of a variety of school activities, although choir has been a constant. She's been in the Key Club service group, and taken part in track and field and the varsity cheer squad. She was sophomore class president and junior class president.
"Being junior class president was super stressful. You have to plan prom," she said.
As a senior this year, in addition to student body president and choir, she ran cross country and was a member of the city of Gresham's Youth Advisory Council.
She's volunteered for Meals on Wheels and both donates blood and volunteers at school blood drives. As a member of the Gresham Youth Advisory Council she participates in the city cleanup days and other events.
Last year My and her mom made fried rice and bought oranges and warm socks and distributed them to the homeless on Christmas Eve. She said she hopes to include recruit some helpers and expand the project this year.
Even though the Christmas Eve effort wasn't world changing, she said, "it was a really cool experience, the feeling of being able to help someone, even if it was just 12 people."