MILWAUKEE — A Reagan High School senior beat the odds against her, becoming the first in her family to go to college and the first Hakha-Chin refugee to attend Stanford University.
Biak Hlawn has big dreams of making a difference in the world.
"With my voice, I want to be the voice for the unheard, oppressed, and those that are shunned away," said Hlawn.
Eleven years ago, she and her family escaped religious persecution in their homeland of Myanmar.
"We were fortunate enough to fly by plane to Malaysia. Some had to take the pathway that is very gruesome because you have military soldiers right at the border. You are literally risking your life and there are stories of people who have died," said Hlawn.
After two years of hiding in Malayasia, they immigrated to the United States.
When Hlawn arrived in Milwaukee, she spoke no English, but teachers at Humboldt Park School refused to give up on her.
"I was surrounded by people who were very much willing to help me. I was very dedicated to understanding people and interacting with people," Hlawn said.
Since second grade, Hlawn has excelled academically and in her community. Her work has paid off. She recently was accepted to Stanford University, becoming the first in her family and in her Chin community to attend the esteemed university.
"I was truly excited, but because there were many things going on back in my home country, weird mix of emotions, I felt guilty for being so happy because my people are going through a crisis right now," Hlawn said.
Hlawn admits the weight and pressure of this honor are great, but it will not overshadow her desire to be a role model for other youth in the Chin community.
"I want them to look at me and see a mirror: she is like me and she did it. I want to have that motivation and inspiration for those around me," Hlawn said.