Success through failures

Chhan Mawi, Reporter

Hlawn Kip Tlem. She was once a SHS cardinal and now working as an assistant accountant at BKD,LLP. BKD, formerly known as Baird, Kurtz & Dobson, is one of the top 10 accounting companies in the United States. Tlem got Bachelor of science degree in accounting, summa cum laude, from University of Evansville in May 2015 with an Outstanding Senior Service Award. This award is given to only one female and one male graduating seniors from the entire school.

Compared to her achievements, Tlem’s earlier life wasn’t that smooth. Tlem arrived USA seven years ago in 2007 from Malaysia and started her freshman year at SHS. Life was tough for her back then since she couldn’t speak English and wasn’t familiar with the new education system. She once got F in one of her classes. It wasn’t until her senior year when she learned about the differences between regular classes and honor, AP, or DC classes.

According to Tlem, she wasn’t mentally prepared to come to the United States and that’s why she struggled a lot. However, she was thankful for the teachers who helped her.

“But, with the help of [ teachers ], I was able to overcome those struggles and I can go to college with the scholarships. [ Going to College ] was my dream, and  my dream came true because of all my teachers at SHS, naming few teachers Mr. K, Ms Youngerman, Mrs Peddie, Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Matlock, Ms. O’Connor and Mr. Bockelman,” Tlem said. “And, I do not see myself where I am today without them in my life.”

As one of the former-Chin-refugee students, Tlem struggled a lot but she never let it get her down, instead, she tried harder. According to SHS EL teacher Mrs. Amy Peddie, Tlem was an excellent storyteller which helped her won the Lilly Scholarship. Tlem was also a soft-spoken, but confident and mature student.

“As with most of our refugee and former refugee students, she valued her education and understood that she was blessed with opportunities she would never have been given in Burma,” said Peddie.


Peddie and SHS English teacher Mr. Bockelman both admitted that they weren’t surprised that Tlem has become successful in life and they both remember her as a hard-working and good attitude student.

“The thing I remember most about [ Tlem ] is that she always asked questions which helped if it was something she didn’t understand, and she made sure she understood it,” Bockelman said. Bockelman even said Tlem always smile, and at least,  he never saw Tlem got upset.

Bockelman encouraged students to ask questions if needed and not to feel intimidated or nervous to ask. He understands that speaking would be really hard if the student is kind of quiet and shy. It would be even harder to communicate if English isn’t the first language for the student. Trying to do well in school with a new language is frustrating and challenging. However, he wants students to stay after school if they have trouble in school lessons and get help from teachers because pretty much every teacher in the hall-way is willing, opening, and exciting to help.

Not only did Tlem have teachers’ assistance, but she also had a family who supports her from her back. According to Tlem, family’s support speaks a lot to success in life. Tlem can stay after school and do extra work and be involved in activities because her whole family, especially her mom, was doing all the chore at home and she doesn’t need to worry about it except focusing on school works and participating in activities.

As a teenager, there were many times when Tlem felt like giving up and said this is enough and thought about going to work after finishing high school. But, looking at her mom made her to stay stronger since her mom always encouraged to study and not to give up. In this situation, she focused on her goal and thought about the benefits of achieving that goal.

As for setting the goal, Tlem encouraged students to set a goal that is reachable. Setting a giant goal at a time would be so hard to achieve but so easy to give up. Tlem’s point was to break that goal into different steps and accomplish one step at a time, and it would be easier to get over. For example, instead of setting a big goal like “I wanna be a doctor or engineer,”  students must think what they need to do to get that dream.

“ In order to reach my goal, I have to go to college. In order to go to college, I need money. To have money, what should I do? Those are the things students should consider,” Tlem said.

Tlem’s short term goals includes self-improving everyday, learn what the professional life looks like and study how industries work. Her long-term goal is to get a higher position at her job. She really want to focus on her job as an assistant accountant and study her work environment, and she has no plan to continue higher college degree right now.

Bockelman said he would use Tlem as a reference to encourage newcomers  and say that she is a person who was in the similar situation with them. Because she worked hard and stayed dedicated, she has a great job now, and she will be doing just fine for the rest of her life. Bockelman also mentioned that he has a lot of dedicated students to their learning just like Tlem.

“I’m gonna use her as an example of it is possible everybody can… everybody start at the same place and everybody can finish at the same place,” Bockelman said.

As an EL teacher, Peddie advised students to work hard and get the highest grades they can. She said her English Learners students are her heroes because they risked their lives, left the people they love, for all in the hope of a better future. She couldn’t imagine herself overcome – starting over in a different country without knowing the language. Since students had taken all the frightening steps on their own, they just need a little help to navigate their way through American culture.

“Your potential is already there. I just help you see it in yourselves and help it grow,” Peddie said. She added, “When you fail, keep trying.”