Payao has taken the road less traveled. She arrived to the United States as a Hmong refugee 10 years ago. As a first generation refugee, her pathway as a young person was marred with multiple barriers and steep challenges. Payao first joined the Pathways to Success Program in as a Junior in 2014. During her time in programming Payao has flourished from a quiet, uncertain youth to one tapping into her potential. The Pathways to Success Program has helped her develop strategies to deal with stress, identifying stress and risk factors, understanding the risks and impacts of drugs and alcohol among Hmong teens, identify her own strengths and establish a powerful cultural identity; an essential piece for youth development and a protective factor against drugs and alcohol. By providing a safe space, Payao and her peers have been able to discuss matters directly impacting lives of Hmong youth today while learning to successfully navigate those arenas.

Payao is a budding young person the world needs. She has a heart for her community and has a tremendous amount to contribute to both the present and future. From her experience and time in the Pathways to Success Program, Payao has learned to take risks and grow. She currently serves as a Senior Leader at her local high school and as a Senior Leader in the Pathways to Success program. Payao is on track to graduating from high school this year. Upon her graduation, she will be the first in her family to attend college. Her combination of skills, passion and character, make her an extraordinary young person. We are proud of who she has become and will become.