Story 18 of 20: I Make Myself Proud by Tenzin Choenyi

We only have a couple of stories left in our series of 20 stories celebrating 20 years of Umoja, and we are so excited and proud to share story #18 with you! For those of you who have been following our work for the past several years, you may recall hearing about Umoja student, Tenzin Choenyi. We met Tenzin when he was a student at Sullivan High School, and we are thrilled to share that in a few short weeks, he will be graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota! As he prepares for life after college, we asked him to reflect on the lessons he learned in high school and what the future holds for him now.

“I didn’t think that much about life after high school. I intentionally tried not to think about it because I was afraid of going through the process of getting used to a totally new environment once again. When I moved to the states with my family, I felt very out of place. Everything was new to me - the language, culture, and everything in between. I didn’t believe college or university would be possible, given my family’s financial resources. I saw my studies and involvement in Sullivan’s medical program as my golden ticket, so I invested everything I had into my schoolwork. I thought best-case scenario given my circumstance was to either get my CNA or pharmtech license and work at a nursing home or CVS/Walgreens after graduation.

Tenzin_Spring_Fling.jpgI met the Umoja team my junior year, and that’s when everything changed. That was the first time I expressed a real interest in attending a 4-year college/university. Umoja empowered me to make that interest a reality. Even after graduating high school in 2014, Umoja continues to support me in every possible way. I look at my success as Umoja’s success. That motivated me to work harder and think more about my future and myself. Umoja has been there for me at some of the biggest stages in my life: From trips to the White House (read more here and here) to sharing my story at Spring Fling 2016 (pictured left), to summer internships, I’ve felt supported by Umoja. They are family to me. They truly care about the future of every single student and want to see all students succeed in high school and beyond.

Tenzin with Jafet and Clinton in DC for Beating the Odds Summit 2016

That has stuck with me. Today, I am more confident than I have ever been in my life. I used to be the shy kid. I would focus on my studies and immediately return home after school. I didn’t interact with other students that much. I didn’t socialize. I didn’t participate in many clubs. Now, I’m the President of my college’s Investment Club! I know that I am capable of so many things and I am grateful for all the people who helped me get to this point. I carry them with me all the time. I carry the experiences I’ve had up until this point with me wherever I go.

I graduate from college in June (finishing my last semester as we speak). Graduating from college means a lot to me, my family, and everyone that helped me throughout this process.  My four years at Gustavus pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I learned some very valuable life lessons, things that I wish I knew when I was in high school. In fact, if I could offer any advice to high school students, I’d offer this: try as many things as possible to find what you are truly passionate about. That comes in handy.

Tenzin and Heaven at The PrivateBank (now CIBC U.S. Bank) for their internship in 2017


I found what I’m passionate about, and I’m very excited for the next step*. I’m ready to tackle new challenges and adapt to new environments. I know I’ll make everyone proud. I make myself proud.


*After graduation, Tenzin will begin his professional career at CIBC U.S. Bank in their commercial training program to become a Credit Analyst. He’ll start summer 2018.