Skip to main content

Student Success Stories

Luke and Nina’s Story

What this picture shows a happy young couple, living in one of our neighborhoods, looking forward to their life in America. But, it doesn’t show the grit, courage, and sheer determination it took for them to get here.

Luke can never remember a time when he didn’t want to come to the United States. Vietnam was a poor country and his small village, Hocnan, offered few opportunities for an ambitious young man.

“Everything is better in America,” he said. “Better education, better medical care, better jobs.”

When Luke’s older sister brought his parents to the US in 2010 to work in the family business, Luke stayed in Hocnan with his brother and sister, studying English and helping care for the family. At night he talked about his American dreams to his girlfriend, Nina, who lived five minutes away by motorcycle.

“I knew I could do anything in the US,” he said. “There is so much freedom here. You can be anything you want.”

Luke finally got his opportunity in 2014, after two decades of wishing. He moved in with his parents in McMurray, and quickly got a job at his sister’s nail salon. He continued learning English at the Literacy Council of Southwestern PA, and talked to his tutor about marrying Nina and bringing her here. He made American friends and watched “Judge Judy” and played soccer at the field house near Southpointe.

In 2016, Luke returned to Vietnam and married Nina. And in July, 2018, all he had wished for finally came true. Nina came to the US, bringing their new baby Alana.

Luke’s protectiveness of Nina, who speaks little English, is hard to miss. Both smile a great deal, their arms around each other. They admit that English is “hard to learn”, but Luke is now an intermediate-level student with a solid grasp of the language basics. Nina, too, now has a tutor at the Literacy Council and is one of the fastest learners in our program.

Their wishes, Luke translates after discussing them in Vietnamese with his wife, are modest. They’d like to take a vacation, maybe travel to another state. Someday they hope to fly to Miami Beach as a family.

But their ultimate dream? It’s already happened. They’re here.

Student Success Stories