Jessica Do will today walk away from Washington State University with a degree, a hefty resume and a couple of internships under her belt. And despite the multiple tries it took to find the right majors, the 21-year-old will do it a semester early.

For Do, the motivation to succeed comes from several sources: her mentors, her breathing, her mother. In fact, it was her mother's immigration to the U.S. from Vietnam that most inspired Do to make something great of her life.

"She just wanted a better life for all her children, and I just wanted to make her proud," Do said. "I don't want to disregard everything that she's worked hard for to come to America, and not contribute to society."

Growing up in Everett, Wash., Do did what she could to ensure her path to college. She enrolled in Running Start, checking off some college credits while she was still in high school, and also enrolled in Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college preparatory program that encouraged and assisted Do in applying to various universities.

"I applied for multiple universities I would have never applied for because of them," Do said.

Through WSU, Do was accepted into First Scholars, a four-year program meant to assist first-generation students in completing their degrees.

Though she was excited to be accepted at the university, Do said it was difficult to find students with similar backgrounds. The majority of the student population, she said, was white.

"One of my biggest struggles was loneliness," Do said. "It was hard because I couldn't connect."

Do joined the Vietnamese Student Association, one of several university-based organizations she became involved with throughout her college career. Do said her time in First Scholars taught her the importance of gaining connections and internship experience when attempting to land a job in her chosen career field.

That career goal changed multiple times over the years. Do studied criminal justice as a freshman before switching to communications and eventually landing on sociology, where she found opportunities to make big impacts.

On the advice of First Scholars, Do kept herself busy adding to her resume and making connections. She spent a summer as a research intern under sociology professor Emily Huddart-Kennedy, coordinated several community service projects and joined the Sociology Club, where she later became vice president. All the while, Do worked as a student support staff member in the Office for Access, Equity and Achievement.

Lucila Loera, assistant vice president for the Office for Access, Equity and Achievement, said she was impressed at Do's work, both in and outside the office.

"Her demeanor is really quiet, but don't let that fool you," Loera said. "She has a lot to say and a very strong core about her in terms of just being driven as a student."

Soon after seeing the effect of President Donald Trump and his election in November 2016, Do decided to add a degree in political science to the mix.

"He was just so divisive, and I saw what he could do to people watching him, people surrounding him, and I was just like, 'Wow, I didn't know that a single person could make that much impact on such a wide variety of people,' " Do said.

It was then she decided she would make her mark on the world through politics. Do joined the Young Democrats of WSU and served as director of communications. Over the past summer, she worked as a management intern for the city of Pullman, opening her up to the world of local government.

There, she worked alongside Pullman City Supervisor Adam Lincoln, collecting data from other similar cities and their various departments to develop a comparable database for Pullman.

"I think she'll be able to do big things in whatever field she goes into," Lincoln said. "My personal bias is hopefully she'll go into local government."

Do has applied to volunteer for AmeriCorps in California, and she hopes to eventually move on to graduate school. Her goal is the University of California, Berkeley. One day, Do hopes to work in local government again, perhaps as a city supervisor.

"I want to go out there and make policies that will actually change lives," Do said.


Taylor Nadauld can be reached at (208) 883-4630, by email to tnadauld@dnews.com and on Twitter @tnadauldarg.

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