PAASA NewsAt Middlesex Community College, Extra Help for Asian Students

By Linda K. Wertheimer
New York Times
June 5, 2018

photo of students

LOWELL, Mass. — After her first-ever class at Middlesex Community College last fall, Socheata Mam sank into a couch with her backpack in the main building’s lobby. The 19-year-old Cambodian immigrant was overwhelmed, realizing she had committed to a full load of five classes and her 30-hour-a-week job as a grocery cashier.

Her parents, with limited English language skills, could not guide her. They had never had a chance to go to college because the Khmer Rouge not only committed genocide of more than 1.7 million Cambodians from 1975-79, they also cut off educational opportunities for many of those who survived.

Ms. Mam, who immigrated to the United States at age 9, said she believed she had to rely on herself for everything at her college in Lowell, Mass., home to the nation’s second largest Cambodian population.

Photo of Virak UyBut Virak Uy, a Cambodian refugee who is the director of the college’s new Program for Asian American Student Advancement, had no intention of letting her flounder. He urged Ms. Mam to stop by the Asian American Connections Center, which opened in 2017 to help Southeast Asian students.

At the center, Ms. Mam could use the computers, eat lunch, use some of the sriracha hot sauce stocked in the minifridge and hang out with other Asian students. She could get tutoring, academic advising and financial aid tips and maybe eventually shed that feeling that she was on the outside looking in, the same experience Mr. Uy had a few decades ago as a freshman at Boston College.

During the spring semester, Ms. Mam went to the connections center every day after classes. Mr. Uy, whose desk faces the entrance, was usually the first person she saw, and just behind him covering most of the back wall was a 10-foot-wide by 5-foot high painting of Angkor Wat, a 12th-century Cambodian temple complex. Ms. Mam’s family has a smaller version of a similar painting in their living room.

“The center feels like another home. I go in there, do my homework, talk to them about my days,” Ms. Mam said. “It gives me a sense of comfort in a way, just because there are a lot of familiar faces here.”


middlesex connector logo

AANAPISI Grant Updates (via Middlesex Connector)

orient groupThe AANAPISI grant has enabled Middlesex Community College to make significant progress in the area of academic quality and student services during its first two years. Over the past three months, we have been developing and submitted the annual report which is required by the federal government. This process has given us the opportunity to reflect on the different components of the grant and to thank the numerous faculty, staff, and students who have made valuable contributions to the success of the program.

As we enter the next few years of the grant, we hope to continue to leverage and make connections with community partners and to expand services to more students in the areas of academic quality and student services and improve the student college-going experience.

May 2018
Multicultural Achievement Peer Program (MAPP)

MAPP group
MAPP group at tables

On March 11, the Multicultural Achievement Peer Program (MAPP) hosted its end-of-year celebration at the Asian American Connections Center in Lowell.

MAPP provides MCC students a unique opportunity for social and educational support, as well as guidance from their mentors, to ensure a smooth and positive transfer experience to UMass Lowell. This year’s pilot program matched 10 MCC student mentees with 10 UML mentors according to their academic program.

During the celebration, participants had the opportunity to network over lunch and received certificates of completion, T-shirts, and other prizes. We hope to continue the MAPP mentorship program next year with a new cohort of mentees and mentors.


April 2018
Asian American Heritage Month

AAHM Photo Campaign

This month, the Program for Asian American Student Advancement (PAASA) has been celebrating Asian American Heritage Month at MCC. Throughout the month of April, PAASA has been highlighting the diversity of the Asian American population here by asking students to self-identify their ethnicity and taking a picture. Students, faculty, and staff from Cambodia, China, and many other countries proudly had their pictures taken on both campuses.

In addition, we have hosted several events throughout the month, including an Opening Event where students learned about the Japanese Internment. At the end of the month, students volunteered at the local Lowell Khmer New Year Festival in Clemente Park. Thank you to everyone who has participated and we look forward to celebrating next year!

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Last Modified: 8/2/21