International Student Considers TCC a ‘Smart Choice’, Wins Multiple Scholarships

FORT WORTH, Texas — Before graduating (high honors) May 16 with an Associate of Arts in business, Tarrant County College Southeast scholar Tam Ho had received eight scholarships, including the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the Dr. Norman D. Ellis Memorial Scholarship from the TCCD Foundation and several from Phi Theta Kappa.

Quite the accomplishment for any student, but even more remarkable for Tam.

She was 16 when she came to the US from Vietnam, and she didn’t speak English. Neither did her mother, who encouraged her to practice her language skills and work on her education.

“With my mother as my encourager, I faced my fears,” she said. “And like my mother, I learned to be strong.”

Tam acquired most of her English in high school. Following graduation in 2021, it was time to think about college.

In TCC Southeast she discovered an open door.

She says she was overwhelmed by the hearty welcome and abundant resources to help students. “I felt a sense of belonging on my campus,” she said. In addition to the encouraging environment, she found cultural diversity; soon, she says, she was making friends from around the world.

Even with Tam’s exciting new perspectives, though, stress accompanied the transition. Learning American history was a “nightmare,” and she struggled with understanding the background of an unfamiliar country in an unfamiliar language. She credits Instructor Eric Salas with offering a fresh slant.

His lectures featured captivating connections between current society and the past. The most valuable lesson she learned? If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we will make them again and again.

“Every professor and every class I attended taught me a new lesson,” Tam said. “In my experience, community college professors always motivate their students to be successful in class and outside of class, too.”

Tam’s personal growth included being brave enough to build new relationships and accept challenging responsibilities. She sought opportunities to advance her education and to meet people.

In recognition of her progress, she received the Rising Star Award, which celebrates TCC Southeast students who demonstrate remarkable growth, dedication to learning and a determination to make a positive difference. It also emphasizes leadership potential.

Student activities coordinator Carla Hernandez met Tam at new student orientation. Hernandez left TCC a couple of months after that but not before encouraging a coworker to get the shy Vietnamese student more involved because “she’s one of the good ones.”

The coworker later texted that Tam had started working in their office, was going to be a peer leader, was involved in various TCC Southeast student pursuits, and held office in one of the campus clubs.

When Hernandez returned to TCC, she found that the shy girl she met months before was now a “welcoming, charismatic, friendly, knowledgeable, dedicated and responsible young lady.”

As a peer leader for new student orientation, Tam heard numerous misconceptions about community college from potential students. “They come with apprehension, and sometimes even embarrassment, because they’ve been told that community college cannot give them a quality education. However, that is not true.”

She said she received an outstanding education from TCC faculty and staff committed to her success, and for far less cost than the tuition at area universities. Then there was campus life, where she flourished as a senator in the Student Government Association and as the Texas regional president of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

She won five Phi Theta Kappa scholarships — the Dr. Mary Hood STAR Scholarship, the Sarah Duesman STAR Scholarship (twice), the Walter B. Cooper Scholarship, the Guistwhite Scholarship and the Founders Medal Award (out of 5,000 applicants) — and considers her PTK experience “life-changing and a privilege.” She says she’s more confident now and would tell apprehensive potential students not to worry about community college. In her essay for the Founders Medal Award, Tam said community college was a “smart choice” for her

Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, PTK’s president and CEO, says America’s community colleges are not only affordable and accessible but “quality institutions where students learn and grow academically, socially, personally and professionally.” She called Tam the best evidence of what community colleges have to offer.

Beckie Smith, adviser for the PTK Beta Delta Omicron Chapter at TCC Southeast, concurred that Tam is “one of the most recognizable student role models on campus” and says she blossomed while at TCC.

The Jack Kent Cooke scholarship brings $55,000 a year to cover future educational expenses. Likely the money will be spent at the University of Texas at Arlington, where Tam intends to transfer in the fall. She envisions a career as a financial adviser.

“Attending community college was a great choice for me,” she said. “I was able to meet professional people, receive an excellent education and be a student leader. TCC has given me the confidence to keep growing.”

Which is exactly what the PTK chapter adviser anticipates.

“This time of Tam’s life is only the beginning,” Smith said. “Great things are in store for her, and we are the lucky ones for getting to be here where it all began.”

Ho Selected as PTK’s 2023 Founders Medal Award Recipient

60 Community College Students Awarded Transfer Scholarships to Attend Four-Year Institutions – Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (

Tarrant County College Foundation (TCCF): Investing in the Success of TCC Students (

Tarrant County College is one of the nation’s largest higher education institutions and boasts the second-lowest tuition of Texas’ Top 10 community colleges. A comprehensive two-year college with six campuses in Tarrant County and online classes, TCC offers a range of opportunities for learners of all ages and backgrounds, including Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees; workforce and economic development programs; technical and skilled trades programs; and customized training for area businesses and corporations.