Ya An Heang will be attending Denison University in the fall of 2023. She is Cambodian-Vietnamese and grew up in a suburb of the Banteay Meanchey province. She has 2 younger sisters and her parents own a small business selling garlic. Ya An’s ambitions and her parents’ sacrifices motivate her to work conscientiously to accomplish her dream goals. As a result, she graduated with an A-grade on her national exam and became the first personin her family to pursue higher education.
Aside from studying, Ya An is very active in extracurricular activities and community services. Even though there were limited opportunities when she was in high school, she created ones for herself or improvised with the available activities. She strengthened her leadership skills by leading the Red Cross Club and participating in Model United Nations where she was exposed to new perspectives, communications, and confidence. She took the initiative to challenge herself by raising funds for charities and educating children about the negative effects of burning plastics in Klaeng Por and Kontout, rural villages of Banteay Meanchey province. Ya An always takes advantage of every challenge. During the pandemic, she founded a club called “One Step Forward” to provide more opportunities to high school studentsto help them improve their English public speaking, critical thinking skills, and confidence by discussing social issues and debating online. Besides that, she trained and worked with 10 high school students to start becoming future leaders by tackling environmental issues and introducing bamboo straws to their community. She has also witnessed a lot of environmental problems in agriculture due to the excessive usage of chemicals by farmers every year which destroys consumers’ health and the environment. This motivates her to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies in order to create an eco-friendly agriculture system in Cambodia and ensure food safety for everyone. Ya An has a strong sense of being a change agent because she believes her contribution can positively impact her community.