Senior Spotlight: Tu Vu

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Zak Keel

"I plan on going into the military so I can go to college, and then I can decide if I want to become a doctor. After I am done with my military contract I want to become a physician in my community," senior Tu Vu said.

Mainly known for his participation in JROTC here at West and the love-hate relationship he has with advanced mathematics, senior Tu Vu retains an extensive past that has placed him in the positions he remains in today.

“I lived in a communist country where education is different than here in America. There were more disciplines and uniformities. When we arrived here, everything was different,” Vu said.

Vu was born and raised in Cam My, Dong Nai, Vietnam. His family owned a local computer lab and transportation company in his hometown, which adequately provided for him and his older brother financially.

“We [Vu and his older brother] would often go fishing or ride our bikes through rubber-tree forests owned by the government,” Vu said. “I remember one time we were riding our bikes, and a wild cow started to chase us. Our family would also drive in our Toyota to the beach during the summer. The water was very clear, crystal clear.”

Despite the fond memories from years ago, a significant distinction in his experience growing up in another country was the educational system.

“It was mandatory to wear a uniform to go [to school] whether public or private,” Vu said. “We would go to school in the morning, come back home, eat, change clothes, and go back to school and study.”

Vu’s family decided that the move to the United States was essential for a reliable future. While he had been taking English classes for a few years at his Vietnamese school, he surely was not fluent, and his family did not speak the language at all.

“It was my first time getting on a plane. Moving was hard. We first lived in a large house with my aunt in Davenport, and then four years later we moved out and got our own apartment. I was looking forward to becoming acquainted with a new lifestyle,” Vu said.

After becoming familiar with his environment and enrolling in a public school, Vu swiftly acquired the English language.

“I became the only person in my family who could fluently speak English, so I often had to help my family,” Vu said.

Throughout middle school, Vu had his ups and downs. He would often contrive arguments, misbehave, or occasionally have his parents called to the school.

“I wasn’t the best kid in middle school, but I am doing much better now,” Vu said.

It was not until his freshman year of high school where the real transformation began. He enrolled in JROTC, or the U.S. Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Program hosted at North High School.

“At the end of the day, it all comes down to hard work. You have to be willing to work hard and be persistent to achieve your goals. You need to have a sense of direction. Involve yourself in school and reach out to people that are willing to help you.””

— Senior Tu Vu

“It transformed me into a different person. I was taught discipline and responsibility,” Vu said. “Whenever you do something wrong, they will make you do push-ups or IT [intensive training]. You have to think about your responsibilities, consequences, and effects of your actions.”

Along with his devotion to the program, he became more conscious of his fitness and began to lift.

“Freshman year I was skinny and still a bit of a troublemaker. I wanted to get in better shape ever since I was in fifth grade, so I started to lift and exercise more. I wanted to be better than before,” Vu said. “I enjoy working out. Instead of playing video games, I can be doing something more productive where results are present. It makes you feel good. I am always looking to improve myself wherever I can”.

As Vu became more mindful of his physical health and progressed through JROTC, he began to develop an ambitious projection of his future.

“I plan on going into the military so I can go to college, and then I can decide if I want to become a doctor. After I am done with my military contract I want to become a physician in my community,” Vu said.

Though, this burning desire for self-improvement and a strong sense of ambition did not arise out of thin air. Vu gives credit to some of his closest family members who have molded him not only into a conscientious young man but a leader.

“My father was a teacher, and my grandfather was in the military. They disciplined me well. I’ve learned to lead by example. That is what makes a leader. Don’t ask a person to do something if you can’t do it yourself. A leader is not someone who tells people what to do. It’s all about what you can do for other people,” Vu said.

If he could reach out to his former younger self, or to someone going through a similar period of growth, this is the advice that he would provide:

“At the end of the day, it all comes down to hard work. You have to be willing to work hard and be persistent to achieve your goals. You need to have a sense of direction,” Vu said. “Involve yourself in school and reach out to people that are willing to help you.”

Through shifting lives completely, assimilating to a new environment, undergoing years of JROTC, and accommodating to the advice of relatives, Vu has gained the experience to learn from parts of his past, leave some parts behind him, and ultimately focus on his future.

“It doesn’t matter what happens in the past, you can always turn it around and become a better person,” Vu said.