Uyen Nguyen, Golden Door Scholar

By: Emily Davis

Uyen Nguyen, a senior at Heritage High School, was born in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam,and immigrated to the U.S. in 2011. She moved to North Carolina the same year and began her freshman year at Heritage. In addition to being the president of National Achievers Society and Key Club, Uyen is also the recipient of the Golden Door Scholarship, which provides her with a full ride to a variety of east coast universities.

Due to her document status, Uyen was not able to qualify for the FAFSA, Federal Student Aid, while applying to colleges, but she didn’t let this stop her, “Education is the most important thing in my life,” she says. Uyen learned about the Golden Door Scholarship last summer, a non profit program that offers full rides to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or undocumented students. The program was developed to combat the numerous obstacles undocumented high school graduates face when pursuing college. Such obstacles include their ineligibility for financial aid, and, in some states, being required to pay the tuition of an international student. Golden Door focuses on students that excel both academically and extracurricularly, making Uyen the perfect candidate.

Since 2013, Golden Door had awarded scholarships to 45 students from an applicant pool of over 2200. These scholarships allow students full rides to attend 18 colleges and universities on the east coast, including Davidson College, Wake Forest University and Emory University.  

This November, Uyen underwent the strenuous process of applications, phone interviews, and a face-to-face interview with a business leader. The program is extremely competitive, with approximately 1000 applicants this year, of whom only 80 are singled out and 50 of which are actually awarded the scholarship.

Uyen received the call that she had been awarded the scholarship in late November, “He [a benefactor of the program] called me and said ‘Uyen, you’re going to college.’ I was crying so hard.”

When describing the application, Uyen said, “The process was nerve-wracking. You have to be prepared to talk about yourself and your dreams and vision.” Uyen is already working hard to achieve her dreams. She hopes to attend Davidson University with her scholarship and eventually earn her law degree. In addition, she hopes to one day run for congress, “I want to be a leader who advocates for equality for all people, despite gender, ethnicity, or religion,” she said.