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Springwood valedictorian surprised by success

LANETT — Tuong “Catherine” Tran moved to America from Vietnam last year as a shy teenager who didn’t open up to others often.

“At first, it was hard because I was not very good at English,” Tran said. “No one spoke to me in my own language either. I kind of stayed by myself, alone and I missed [my friends and family in Vietnam].”

Tran overcame struggles to read class textbooks and materials to become this year’s valedictorian at Springwood School.

“I feel like my effort of reading the book twice or even three times has really worked well,” Tran said. “I think that international students like me shouldn’t be scared of speaking English like I was last year because they will be open to more opportunities.”

She also admits to forgetting to complete some homework assignments in the last two years.

“I think that they might have calculated something wrong,” Tran said of the honor, before laughing. “I don’t know. I just did everything the teacher asked me to do.”

Tran said that as of Tuesday afternoon, she was not prepared to give the speech to her fellow graduates at the school’s graduation ceremony on Friday night.

“I had something that I was going to say, but I don’t know,” she said. “I’m nervous.”

On the mathematics team, Tran scored the highest individual score in the district and qualified for the state level. She said she isn’t very fond of math and that psychology and sociology are her two favorite subjects.

Tran was on the robotics team, and was a part of a local theater where she worked in make-up and costume for “Beauty and the Beast.” With the robotics team, Tran and Springwood created a machine that helps to clean oceans. Tran said that doing the environmentally-friendly project opened her eyes to the amount of plastic that is used and wasted in the world on a typical basis. She’s also become more conscious of her waste habits as well.

One of her favorite hobbies at Springwood was to attend the Wildcats’ sporting events.

“I don’t enjoy sports, but I go to every game that we have,” she said. “I get to be around friends, and the school spirit is really good.”

Tran’s favorite pep rally was the Hawaiian-themed school event from last fall. She really enjoyed seeing her classmates dress in many colors and participate in the limbo.

Tran is attending Texas A&M to study engineering in the fall. It’s the same school that her older brother attended and graduated from last year, who encouraged her to come to America.

Tran has been thankful that her American experience has lived up to her brother’s lofty reviews.

“I just want to say thank you [to everyone] for not laughing at my bad English,” she said. “They’ve helped me a lot every day because I asked a lot of questions.”