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Three people pose on the steps of Old Main at the University of Arizona
The Chhieu family – Carol, Harry and Anthony – are all graduating from the University of Arizona this semester.

Mechanical Engineering Student Graduates With His Family

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Mechanical Engineering Student Graduates With His Family

May 9, 2023
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Doing it together is ‘so big.’

Harry Chhieu is finishing his mechanical engineering degree at the same time his mother, Carol, and his brother, Anthony, are graduating from the University of Arizona.

“This is such a big step since my mom has always been preaching about how we should go to college and how we should…. She wants us to make something of ourselves … being able to do that with her is so big,” he said.

Achieving the Goal

Carol Chhieu, previously known as Pech, fled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1981 and built a life here in America.

Changing her name was just one of many adjustments she had to make when she arrived in California at the age of 15.

She had to learn in English long before the internet was available, painstakingly translating her native language of Khmer. She now speaks multiple languages including Spanish and Chinese.

“Life of refugee was tough. It was like… Okay, after you finish high school… Most people don’t finish high school. In my generation, very few people graduated from high school,” said Carol.

Carol ended up raising three children, a daughter and two sons by herself.

As her sons started pursuing their education, she realized she wanted to finish hers.

“After a while you get older, you get wiser… and I always wanted to go back to school. I was just waiting for the kids to grow older,” said Carol.

The plan worked out better than she imagined. She’ll now be getting her diploma at the same time as her two sons.

“I think it’s really cool. I think it’s really good for her because … it’s always something she’s wanted to do,” said Anthony, who is graduating with a degree in criminal justice. Carol is a literacy learning major and hopes to eventually teach abroad.