San Jac Certified: Intentional Connections graduate exceeds expectations, inspires others

07.03.2017 | By Melissa Trevizo

HOUSTON – When Thu Nguyen came to the United States in 2013, she had just quit high school and did not have a clear direction for what her future would hold. Fast forward four years later, and she is now a San Jacinto College graduate on her way to nursing school at the University of St. Thomas.

Nguyen came to the U.S. from Vietnam with her family when she was 18 in search of better opportunities in education and work. She was forced to quit high school in Vietnam in the middle of her senior year and received her GED in the U.S. in fall 2013.

“I wasn’t really sure what I could do with a GED or where that would take me,” Nguyen said. “My English skills were still not great either, and I was very intimidated by the thought of American college.”

In 2014, despite her fears, she enrolled at the San Jacinto College South Campus through Intentional Connections, a program that provides guidance and mentoring for students who enter college at lower developmental educational levels than the average, but want a degree. After an assessment process, mentors help students connect with key administrators and faculty members. Students then test drive different programs prior to enrolling in a full semester course to find out if that area of study is a good fit.

“I really appreciate the Intentional Connections program and Dr. Lynnda Shields,” Nguyen said. “I learned how to manage my time and study on a college level, while practicing my English. It helped prepare me for college life.”

Shields, a San Jacinto College professor and college preparatory advisor, remembers Nguyen as a focused student.

“Thu began her coursework in our Intentional Connections program at South Campus,” Dr. Shields said. “She was always a great student, very determined and hardworking.”

Nguyen completed the Intentional Connections program and set her sights on two goals, successfully earning her degree and joining the orientation leadership team at the South Campus.

“I saw the orientation leaders when I took my tour, and I admired them so much. I thought, ‘I want to be like them’,” Nguyen said. “I went for my first interview, and I failed it. I was ready to give up but Dr. Shields encouraged me to keep trying.”

When Nguyen interviewed again a year later, she received the job. “I finally achieved my goal,” she said. “I love helping new students. I know how hard it was for me as an international student when I first came to San Jac, and I use that to empathize with others.”

Nguyen graduated with her associate of arts degree from San Jacinto College in May 2016, checking another goal off her list. Her desire to give back to others revealed itself again in her career path. Starting this fall, Nguyen will be one of the newest nursing students at the University of St. Thomas.

“When I looked at careers, I became overwhelmed with the choices that were in front of me,” Nguyen said. “I love to help others, and I decided that the best way I could do that was by going into the medical field to become a nurse.”

Nguyen’s success is a tribute to her hard work and resolve to achieve her goals.

“I will miss the friendships and relationships I’ve made at San Jacinto College,” Nguyen said. “Thanks to the Intentional Connections program and Dr. Shields, I’m prepared and ready to start university in the fall.”

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.