Brandon loves MSP and credits his father’s resourcefulness and a network of supportive organizations for helping him succeed.

Photo: Washington Ave Bridge, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Photo credit: Uzoma Obasi

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised here in Minnesota. I was born in Robbinsdale in 1997 but moved to Brooklyn Park when I was a child and that’s been home for me. Currently, I live in Brooklyn Park in my childhood home, but plan to move out. In December 2020, I graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities majoring in IT Infrastructure Security. I recently secured a full-time job at TCF Bank as an Associate Engineer. So that’s pretty awesome! Before I graduated too, and I didn’t think it was possible. It is possible, but not without the help of other organizations in Minnesota. One of my desires was a job in Minnesota. I don’t want to leave Minnesota because of all the organizations and people that have helped me. I want to work in Minnesota, put my efforts and ideas towards Minnesota, to see how I can better Minnesota  Now it’s my turn to give back. I’m on the Alumni Council of an organization called Genesys Works. I’m going to reach out to College Possible, which is another college and career readiness program that helped me throughout high school and college. I’m waiting to be part of their Alumni Council to give back, because I wouldn’t have gone this far if it wasn’t for their support and their belief in me.

Why do you think you would not have gone this far without these organizations?

English isn’t my first language; my first language is Vietnamese. I went to Woodland Elementary and I was in English Second Language (ESL). I remember one time I had to go to the bathroom and I asked the teacher: “Can I go to the bathroom?” She asked me: “Is this an emergency?” And I didn’t know what “emergency” meant, so I said: “No. Can I go?” She said “No.” I didn’t put two and two together. And then the third time I asked her, I said it was an emergency and she said: “Oh, you can go.” And I thought: “Oh, that’s what ‘emergency’ means, I can do what I need to do.” My parents came to Minnesota in the 1970s because of the Vietnam War. So, we grew up without a lot of resources, without a lot of help. After fourth and fifth grade, my parents couldn’t help me with homework anymore. I remember my dad would help me with spelling tests, but I couldn’t understand the words he was saying because it wasn’t the correct pronunciation. With stuff like math homework too, I was limited to my parents, and they didn’t know how to help me. So, in fifth grade, I was in a program called Read 180, which is an advanced program for English as a secondary language. I passed that, and then in High School I went to Honors English. I thought high school was kind of easy. I did a lot of Honors stuff and also my counselor told me about the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) which allowed me to take classes at the University of Minnesota for both high school and college credit. The main reason I did PSEO is because you can save money for college credits. I was like, “save money, yeah!” I didn’t care about anything else, saving money was my number one priority.

I am kind of thankful, because not having a lot of resources made my dad very creative in his solutions. He had to figure out how to make things work instead of buying something new. And he passed that down to me, so I’ve been creative with coming up with solutions. If there’s a problem, you start with an idea.

What is your favorite part about MSP?

It’s home. I grew up here. I think all the seasons are fun. In the summer, I can hang out with my friends outside and bike around. Well, I used to do that, now it’s golfing. In wintertime, I snowboard with my cousins. What I find fun about Minnesota is that all my family’s here. I have a lot of cousins – over 20. Family gatherings were always be so funny because we came up with random games and would just be creative and have fun. And then, College Possible made high school and college easier for me, and all the organizations like Genesys Works, York Solutions, CONNEXT MSPGREATER MSP. These organizations are there to help you grow as an individual. My mom doesn’t live in Minnesota anymore. She says: “Hey, come to Florida!” I’m like: “Mom. Minnesota is where it’s at!” And for when it’s too cold, we have blankets. We got jackets. Wintertime – we just snowboard. 

What is your call to action to somebody reading this?

Bring back the curiosity! As a kid, you’re curious, but as you grow up, society makes you limit your curiosity. You adhere to the school agenda, for exams, you adhere to whatever you’re supposed to study. Take moments to not be on your phone, to just take in the world and that will help your curiosity. Ask a lot of questions. Just bring back the curiosity. Because that’s your inner child, everybody starts off curious.

Click here for the full interview with Brandon. For more stories & resources, visit “MSP in Color” page.

This “MSP in Color” blog series aims to celebrate many dimensions of life and community across MSP by sharing real stories about life here from the people who tell it best – its residents.

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