CHS minor one of four chosen to speak at Commencement

‘The University of Kentucky has created an environment that gives their students a sense of community and belonging’

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Growing up in the state of Kentucky, Amy Luu Ngo was able to see the strength and inclusivity in the community of UK and Big Blue Nation. 

“The energy, values, and missions that the University of Kentucky stands for can be seen and exhibited through each student, staff and faculty member,” said the 21-year-old from Bowling Green.

Per University of Kentucky tradition, UK President Eli Capilouto has selected student representatives to speak at the UK Commencement Ceremonies May 6-7, at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.

Four speakers in total were selected. Each speaker will address their respective ceremony in-person, returning to tradition after COVID-19 restrictions saw speeches being pre-recorded.

Ngo will address her classmates as the student speaker for the 9 a.m. Saturday, May 7 ceremony. Ngo is earning a bachelor's degree in biology from the UK College of Arts and Sciences and a minor in health advocacy and a certificate in clinical healthcare management from the UK College of Health Sciences.

Over the last four years, Ngo has dedicated time as a clinical laboratory technician to process thousands of COVID-19 samples for the UK community and the Commonwealth. She has also conducted research through the UK Office of Undergraduate Research and served as a teaching assistant intern in the UK Department of Chemistry. She also is a member of Lambda Alpha Chi Omega; UK Amnesty International; vice president of financial and medical coordinator for UK Shoulder to Shoulder: Global Brigades; a member of the Interprofessional Healthcare Living Learning Program; a volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; and volunteered on campus with various UK vaccination clinic COVID-19 efforts.

Ngo is also the first in her family to attend college, and is excited to share her story.

“As a first-generation college student, there were various obstacles and challenges that I had to overcome,” Ngo said. “I hope that my speech emphasizes the importance of perseverance when facing life tribulation. Also, be able to show how the University of Kentucky has created an environment that gives their students a sense of community and belonging.”

We caught up with Amy Luu Ngo just as she began her last week here at UK. We wanted to know how she came to the University, what she plans to do in the future — and what she’s going to say when she takes the stage at Commencement.

Here’s 5 questions with … Amy Luu Ngo:

What led you to be interested in your major — Biology?

I was interested in Biology because I wanted to expand my knowledge in science and conduct research. I was intrigued about the diversity and functions of life forms.

And what brought you to the College of Health Sciences?

After participating in the living learning program that collaborated with the College of Health Sciences — the Inter professional Healthcare Residential College — I eventually added a minor in Health Advocacy and later, a certificate in Clinical Healthcare Management. With a complex medical system and healthcare gaps, I decided to pursue this to be able to learn the fundamental skills of both advocacy, to better health and healthcare, as well as learn the essential skills of leaderships and management in a healthcare setting.

During COVID, you were doing some real frontline work, right?

During the midst of COVID-19, I worked in a clinical laboratory contracted with WildHealth as a clinical laboratory technician, that processed over thousands of samples for UK students as well as the community of Lexington. We were the background workers, but we knew our work and dedication was pushing for a “normal” again. I continue to volunteer during COVID-19 at the vaccination clinic at Kroger Field as well!

My experience working in the clinical lab and volunteering in the vaccination clinic led me to realize the true importance of community engagement. I saw how every citizen's contribution plays a major role in the prevention and improvement of COVID-19 through our share of knowledge and awareness.

And where do you see yourself in the future?

In the future, I plan to pursue a doctorate in optometry and provide eye care services in rural areas of Kentucky. After observing and working in an optometry office, I was able to grasp a better understanding of the need in vision care, especially preventing various ocular diseases that are prominent in Kentucky that go undiagnosed. I hope to utilize my knowledge and skills from my certificate when managing a private optometry office one day.

What do you want to say when you address your classmates at Commencement?

In my speech, I hope to emphasize the importance of perseverance when facing life tribulation. As a first-generation college student, there were various obstacles I had to overcome. I hope my speech can highlight how the University of Kentucky has created an environment that gives their students a sense of community and belonging.

My determination and values were driven by my family’s background when migrating to the United States after the Vietnam Wars. They were able create a foundation to provide me the opportunities that they were not able to have themselves. They modeled hard work and how to deeply value and commit education which I transposed into action with my current pursuit of higher education!

BONUS: Anyone in CHS you’d like to thank?

I would like to personally thank, Dr. Sarah Kercsmar, for being such a positive impact and light to my college journey. I was fortunate to have her as a professor my last fall semester at UK. In her class, I was exposed to the gaps in healthcare and was able to learn the different policies and politics that heavily impact our healthcare system. I found how imperative it was to advocate, especially in healthcare, by promoting and supporting individuals to ensure that their rights are not being violated and their voices are heard.

Thank you, Dr. Kercsmar, for caring for your students beyond the classroom and guiding them on right path to success. Your time, dedication, and efforts has truly help molded me to the leader I am today.

Throughout my college experience at UK, I learned the importance of vulnerability and self-acceptance. Navigating through my first year of college and moving away from home, there was always something that I wanted to change or an ongoing list of certain tasks or goals to push closer to being that “person” I thought I must be to fit in.

Self-acceptance is imperative in life as many do not realize it's more than just an ongoing to-do list to “find” or complete what you think you are or have to be. I found out self-acceptance started with exploring what I feared and accepting those weaknesses. To prospective students, this journey will be tough and there will be times that you struggle and want to give up, but remember to persevere. Remember to never be afraid to reach out for help and to cultivate compassion and forgiveness for yourself as this can be a fundamental key to success.