Six years ago, as a high school student, Key Nguyen was not sure if his future included college. This summer, the third-year nursing major is making plans for graduate school while he helps first-generation Americans like himself prepare themselves for college.

Nguyen works as a tutor-counselor for TRIO Upward Bound, a federally-funded program that helps young people —particularly those whose parents did not attend college — successfully compete high school and pursue post-secondary education. Students in grades 9-12 participate in activities to enrich preparation for college, explore careers and build self-confidence, self-reliance and sense of community.

During summer at UVM, Upward Bound participants engage in an intensive college immersion experience on and near the campus. They take academic enrichment courses, participate in community service projects and cultural events and visit career sites.

Nguyen’s duties include assisting course teachers, initiating deliberate conversations around college aspirations and career pathways, leading college visit trips and creating meaningful learning activities that foster growth and scholarship. He receives a stipend while strengthening his resume and developing academic and leadership skills. For Nguyen, it’s also a full-circle way to make a positive impact on his community.

“I decided to join Upward Bound this summer as a tutor counselor to give back the support that I received for all four years of high school,” he explained. “Here I am today, a proud rising junior in the UVM Nursing class of 2021. I couldn't have done it without the help from UVM Upward Bound.”

In addition to his nursing studies, during the academic year Nguyen serves as a residence advisor and a “links” peer advisor to first year students. He worked as a UVM student senator and sang with Catamount Singers. His future plans are in place: After graduating in 2021, he intends to stay on at UVM to pursue a master of science in nursing followed by a Doctor of Nursing practice degree.

“It’s all part of my plan to become a forever UVM'er,” Nguyen said. “I wake up every day full of happiness and excitement, knowing that I will get to help 45 high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to be one step closer to a better future. And who knows, I might be able to inspire some future nurses.”


Janet Lynn Essman Franz
Third year nursing student Key Nguyen serves as a “links” peer advisor to first year students in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.