Laura Houcque Prabhakar, 30’s
I am a high school teacher and college counselor in Chicago. I teach seniors in a college prep seminar class and I also college counsel a large portion of the high school seniors each year. The majority of the students I serve identify as first generation.
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
I am half Cambodian and half Vietnamese, but I identify more with my Cambodian side. My father is Cambodian and my mother is Vietnamese, but she was born and raised in Cambodia.
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
My father took refuge in France at the beginning of the Khmer Rouge regime. My mother took refuge in France during the Khmer Rouge after spending some time in the refugee camps in Thailand. I was born in Paris, France in 1990. My family came to the United States in 1994. My twin brothers were born in 1995.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
Strengths: Culture, strong sense of perseverance, unique perspective of the world.
Weakness: Visibility as a Southeast Asian overshadowed by the "model minority" myth in white culture.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My educational journey. With my parents having survived war and genocide, their first priority after escaping was survival rather than education. I was the first in my family to graduate high school and college in the U.S. Last year, I received my Master's of Arts in Teaching degree after spending two years as a full-time teacher and a full-time graduate student.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
My parents have instilled in us (my brothers and I) a strong sense of perseverance as we've navigated through life's experiences, especially the challenges. I've also learned how to be resourceful with what I have. It's what many other immigrant, refugee, and poor families can relate to--- recycling clothes to siblings, shopping for Goodwill finds on a regular basis, packing food instead of eating out, limited family trips, learning to fix broken things, repurposing household items, etc.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I unfortunately do not speak Khmer because my parents wanted to focus on being able to assimilate to French and American cultures when growing up.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
Embrace the culture that you are so blessed to be a part of! Do not let anyone make you feel ashamed of your culture. Be proud of who you are and know that you bring so much value to our society. If you don't know much about your family's history, try to learn about it and understand it. Be grateful for the opportunities you have today that our parents and ancestors wish they had when they were our age. Our families have gone through many struggles and sacrifices that we may never truly understand. Ask them questions about their journey to help yourself develop compassion for your family and appreciation for your roots.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Spending time with my husband, Adith!
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
My parents have recently started opening up to me about their journeys so I've been jotting down notes whenever they feel like talking about it. I'm not sure if I will create anything out of their stories yet, but I am just grateful that they are finally sharing the details because I know it can be difficult.
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
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