Senior Nattapon Oonlamom, 17, at Everett High School on Dec. 11. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Senior Nattapon Oonlamom, 17, at Everett High School on Dec. 11. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

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Immigrant Everett High senior makes the most of opportunity

Nattapon Oonlamom, 17, moved from Thailand about seven years ago. Her dream school is Stanford.

EVERETT — Nattapon Oonlamom, 17, is a senior at Everett High School who moved here from Thailand about seven years ago.

She takes almost all college-level Advanced Placement classes and is in multiple student clubs, such as honor society and the international student organization.

While she’s still deciding on her future, she’s thought about becoming a neurosurgeon someday and returning to her home country to help improve living and medical conditions.

Question: I heard you want to become a surgeon someday?

Answer: I do, that’s an ultimate goal is to become a neurosurgeon, but I’m still exploring. I’m not sure yet if my interest lies on that, though, in terms of a major.

Q: How’d you become interested in neurosurgery?

A: Where I came from they lack medical care, so I was intrigued by the medical field when I came here. I hope someday if I have skills and have enough materials I could go back and help improve their conditions. Especially in the part I came from.

Neurosurgery is something to think about, but I haven’t declared my major, but I have a strong interest in that.

A: Where in Thailand did you live?

Q: Kanchanaburi — I lived in the southern part.

I moved here seven years ago when I was 10. I’ll hit the eight-year anniversary next March.

Q: What was that like?

A: I was struggling, I couldn’t speak a word. I could only say “hello.” Because again the education back then was not as promising and as good as here.

The teachers here were really nice about helping me. They would always put me in computer listening to English stuff, but I also read books on my own.

It kind of took a lot of commitment and my time seeking articles and books and trying to open the dictionary to translate words. I started from the kindergarten book. I’m surprised I made it this far.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: Bio technology, AP government, AP literature, AP calculus, AP Chinese and AP bio.

Q: Wow, that’s a lot of AP classes.

A: I kind of want to confirm I will survive in college. I’d rather it be hard right now than later.

Q: So you’re taking AP Chinese. How many languages can you speak?

A: I speak Thai fluently, English fluently, Chinese is questionable but I can speak and write, and a little Laos I think.

I love learning languages. I believe that’s an advantage in life. If I’m a doctor I might end up in other countries. I’m considering learning Spanish as well.

Q: Have you applied to any universities yet?

A: Yes, I applied to WSU, got admitted! And also I applied to UW, so I’m waiting to hear back. I’m also going to apply to the top schools, like my dream schools, like Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania.

Q: Which one of those is your ultimate dream school?

A: Stanford. Definitely Stanford.

Q: Why?

A: I believe they will help me explore myself in terms of their activities and clubs, their advisors. They are really into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and STEM is something I might be interested in the future.

Q: You visited once. What was that like?

Q: It’s really beautiful. The climate is warm. It seems like they have a really great community there.

I mean, I love U. Penn, too. I love both. They are both my top choice.

Q: You mentioned going back to Thailand someday?

A: That’s my goal. I would like to donate or maybe go back and create something, I don’t know yet.

I would like to help improve their living conditions, their health conditions — it’s a rural area I’m talking about. What they’re facing right now is not what they should be facing. It should be way better.

Q: Any challenges you’ve overcome?

A: There are a lot of things.

Maybe, in terms of changing myself from someone who didn’t really want to do anything in school.

I didn’t do any homework or have interest in education or anything until I came here. Then I see more opportunity, meet new people and contrasted the difference from here and Thailand.

So I started to believe more in commitment and dedication. I was going to give up on speaking English, but then I tried. When a person understood me, I was like, “Oh my God, I did it.”

And then I’m, like, so what about hard subjects like math and science that were mentally challenging? I started to do homework, started to seek education, and every opportunity that comes in front of me I take and try to do the best I can. And I made it. I got an A in English honors class. That’s the first honors class I had taken.

I started to challenge myself more, and that’s part of the reason I have taken AP, because I wanted to know if I can do these things I have never done before, how far can I go?

I went back to Thailand last summer and it was pretty great, because I got to see the environment I faced. It reminded me of how hard and how rough life can be. Especially if you don’t have opportunities. And since I do have those things, I should just go forward and stop complaining.

So be positive, keep smiling and one day that optimism and hard work will pay off.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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