“While students in Oakland face a lot of obstacles in their life – poverty, violence, lack of support – I truly believe they are resilient and I want them to know that for themselves.” – Noelle Duong, former EBAYC mentor and current Garfield Elementary School teacher

Pg.06.Noelle5__1465245464_53762__1465245464_94927Growing up in a single-father household, Noelle Duong recalled, “My dad came from Vietnam early in life and was a single parent by age 22. He worked long hours to raise my brother and me.  He did not understand how to navigate the American school system to advocate for us. I began to fall behind in school and was labeled a problem child… I began to think that I wasn’t smart enough.”

Thankfully, her 4th grade teacher took Noelle aside and told her that she was indeed smart. Noelle took those encouraging words in stride and has grown up believing just that. It turned out that what Noelle needed was simply caring adults who encouraged her to unlock her potential.

Realizing that her family could offer her only limited support, Noelle sought other sources of help and surrounded herself with people who inspired and supported her goal of attending college. Having benefited from their guidance and mentoring, Noelle realized how critical mentors can be in shaping a child’s path. Thus, she served over seven years as an EBAYC academic mentor throughout her high school and college career at UC Berkeley, working with elementary, middle and high school students in her hometown. For Noelle, “In working with these students, I saw a mirror of myself.”

It’s important for Noelle to be a role model for her Oakland community. As she shared, “While I did well at Oakland High School, I felt ill prepared for the rigor at UC Berkeley, compared to my peers from more affluent backgrounds. But I got through it. It further motivated me to work with students and to disrupt the inequality in education.” Armed with a BA degree in Social Welfare and Minors in Education and Public Policy, Noelle is eager to continue her work with students in Oakland.

In fall 2015, Noelle will returned to her old stomping grounds, serving as a 2nd grade teacher at Garfield Elementary School. “Working with the students gives me a purpose in life. I want to be a teacher – and to be a good one. I want to help build a strong foundation for students at a young age.” As a partner of Garfield Elementary School, EBAYC couldn’t be more proud to have Noelle join the school faculty and our staff to inspire our youth.