TAF Lens: How my experiences influenced my passion in education

My Pham
TAF Alumni


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  – Winston Churchchill

The majority of us who found our way to the Technology Access Foundation do not have the means and the resources for us to be successful in life, especially for people of color who are economically disadvantaged.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 data, an estimated 43.1 million Americans live in poverty.  I was one of the students whose parents had to rely on welfare and public housing. The life back home in Vietnam was very challenging; there was not a focus on getting a higher education when food was the main concern every day.  I have been told so many times that I wouldn’t make it far, just like the rest of my family because of our economic status.

Arriving to this country, things were not much different.  There was a number of struggles and challenges we had to face every day such as adjusting to the culture, learning the language, and the lack of or ignorance of the resources and support available to us.  I was told many times I didn’t belong here and I didn’t fit in at school. I still remember the day I met Jill Dziko and the staff of the Technology Access Foundation’s at the Boys and Girls Club in 1995. I didn’t know anything about the foundation or program other than it was an after school program that could help me learn English.  The experience with TAF was a turning point in my life.

“Trish Dziko and Sherry Williams were the first two people who saw my potential.”

Trish Dziko and Sherry Williams were the first two people who saw my potential. The Technology Access Foundation gave me my first opportunity to receive a STEM education.  Achieving a BS degree in Computer Science and a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Washington with my struggles of English as a second language was definitely not easy.  There have been many failures and many times I was told I wasn’t qualified or was good enough. The Technology Access Foundation gave me the foundation and the support to continue my pursuits and overcome challenges in life.   

To address the lack of diversity in the STEM field, the Technology Access foundation has brought STEM education access to underprivileged students.  Alumni of the Technology Access Foundation, including myself, are not only able to break away from poverty, but are now leaders and professionals who make a difference in many areas of our society.  Changing lives only takes one person at a time.

“Each one of us can make a difference, together we make change.” -Barbara Mikulski

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Steven Kwan leads a breakout session at a TAF UnTapped event.