Freedom in America — including the ability to choose one’s career — isn’t lost on Kuy Ky.
The Stockton resident and Cambodian-born dentist was the keynote speaker for Shasta School’s Friday career day themed “Dress for Success.”
“In America, we can choose our own careers,” Ky told the seventh and eighth graders gathered in the Hornets’ Hive multipurpose room.
Ky opened a 30-second self-introduction by telling about himself in his native tongue to show the students how difficult a foreign language is to understand for the first time.
Ky shared how his five brothers and sisters had every excuse to fail living in a humble shack in Cambodia on the other side of the world before their father brought them all to America in 1979 for a better life.
When they arrived the six of them moved into a two-bedroom apartment and made it work as their home for a start in their new country. He also mentioned the benefit of food stamps in the U.S. adding that it should only be used as a stop gap measure and not for a period of 30 years.
He and his siblings have all graduated from American colleges and universities and are settled in their own vocations from dental practices, to one sister who is an anesthesiologist and a brother working at John Hopkins University as a psychologist.
He hugged a man from the crowd who was his mentor on arriving in America and a sixth grade teacher when Ky was just 10. The teacher — David Riley —taught him how to speak English,
“Education is a way to overcome obstacles in your life and it is a path to a better life,” Ky told the students. “Listen to your teachers, listen to your parents and the police, as well, who are here to protect us from harm.”
He stressed the value of the country with all the Cambodians and the Chinese wanting to come to America because this is “their heaven to the world.”
Ky told the assembly of students “A” students can pretty much write their own tickets to success in their lifetimes and “B” students are not far behind. “C” students can become “A” students with added time put toward their homework studies, he said, adding it has nothing to do with intelligence but it has everything to do with time and perseverance.
“Everyone around you – your teachers, your parents – can nurture you and give you information to process,” he said. “Money doesn’t make you happy. And, I have never seen a happy homeless person either.”
He asked the students to say aloud with him from the stands, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” regarding their future success in life. “Everybody with As and Bs move on in life,” he said.
“I am the shortest dentist at 5-foot-3,” he said, “and I can do dentistry better than anyone else having graduated from the University of Southern California.”
He noted because of his size he couldn’t play football or basketball but he could excel in school – and he did just that while helping others.
Ky added that Stagg High School and Delta College did the best for him and “you have a great school in Shasta Elementary.”
He used the homeless at St. Mary’s Kitchen in Stockton as an example where he has volunteered many hours of his time and urged the students to do the same and feel the 28-degree cold that the homeless endure during their nighttime hours.
“It doesn’t matter where you are from be it Pakistan, Cambodia or Mexico,” he said. “America is the jackpot of the world. Go to any country and live there for a month and I guarantee you will better appreciate your country. The best grades are possible in those countries through cheating and paying off the educators in those countries, money speaks.”.
In brief – how to be successful in life: “Listen to your teachers, listen to your mother – she is very important in your lives,” he stressed. “I didn’t learn to be a dentist with my father’s guidance but he sent all of his kids to college.”
As for moms, Ky said, “they never told you to go spray graffiti or rob or steal like your friends can do. Your friends will only be your friends for a short period of time. Your parents will always be there for you.”
“When you are good and successful in your vocation, everyone wants you,” he said. “Be good and help others along the way.”
Ky follows his own advice as he guides the Stockton Rotary Club to their current year successes as its president.
Shasta Principal Audrey Parker ended the session in the school multi-purpose auditorium saying she too came to America from another country. She said she became an educator and found her successes in listening to her teachers and her parents advising her of the best directions to take in life.
“I’m proud to say my sons listened to their teachers and to their parents. I challenge you all to be the best you can be wherever you go,” she concluded.
At the conclusion of Dr. Ky’s presentation students went into various rooms to hear the other presenters for the Career Faire to students in the seventh and eighth grades.
Wayne Johnson, Dylan Johnson and Daniel Schoennauer represented the Electrical Union in the seventh grade.
Jenn Difuntorum represented the Boss Business systems as its vice-president.
Officers Mike Kelly, Jason Downs, Sven smith and Ranch Johnson spoke to students from the Manteca Police Department.
The be.tech First Responders Academy speakers were James Ward with students Amanda Dutra, Codi Gilmer, Tobi Gilmer and Emma McClarty.
Eighth grade students also heard from the be.tech culinary academy with Andrew Griggs and students.
Job Developers included Judy Casetta, Daisy Mayes and Hannah Estensen.
Salyna Koeut, coordinator of the health Careers Scholarships Program spoke to students in the upper grade.
Cosmetologists Amber Bosh, Noelia Balbuena, Maddi Potter and Mar Aranda talking about working in and operating hair salons.
Credit: Manteca Bulletin