Born in a refugee camp, this Marine has travelled far to find his calling in early childhood education.
While his father served as a colonel in the Vietnam War and subsequent conflict between Vietnam and Cambodia, Thong Xiong was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. His family moved to the United States in 1993 and after growing up in a couple of different cities, Xiong joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
In 2016, Xiong and his wife moved to Appleton. Considering a career in the education sector, Xiong decided to take a class in early childhood education at Fox Valley Technical College. “I never knew how much I’d enjoy working with kids,” he says. “Watching their eyes light up when learning something is amazing.”
Xiong discovered that he could easily transfer to a four-year university after completing his FVTC degree, so he enrolled in FVTC’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program. “Kids absorb so much, so quickly,” he states. “The industry needs men to help show kids that anything is possible.”
In addition to being a full-time student and working three jobs, Xiong is president of the Student Government Association and Hmong Student Union Club, while also serving as a work study in the college’s Veterans Resource Center and representing FVTC as a student ambassador for the Wisconsin Technical College System. “In these leadership roles, I’ve learned how to deliver speeches, share my story and advocate for technical education.”
“Fox Valley Tech has helped me every step of the way,” adds Xiong. “My advisor, Koua Thao, along with ECE Instructor Amy Werba, make the college a home away from home.”
The 29-year-old plans to graduate from FVTC in May 2019 and then continue his education. “I want to teach kindergarten and eventually earn a master’s degree in counseling,” he says. “My work can help children achieve their goals.”