Welcome to the Northern Virginia Community College Website

Accessibility Navigation:


Graduating Nighthawk Cindy Tran Learns to Harness Her Passion into a Career of Helping Others

Graduating Nighthawk Cindy Tran Learns to Harness Her Passion into a Career of Helping Others

May is AAPI Heritage Month, and we are spotlighting Cindy Tran who wanted to follow her peers to a four-year university after high school, but the pandemic shut that down. It was then that Cindy turned to NOVA.

Early on, Cindy knew she was passionate about helping others. At NOVA, with an environment conducive to self-reflection, a.k.a. soul searching, Cindy realized what she wanted in a career and how she could help others in the future.

In May, Cindy will graduate with plans to follow her career path to becoming a psychiatric nurse. She has a deep-seated desire to help others and make a lasting impact on her community. Even when Cindy was in pre-school, she got an award for being caring! Hear her story in her own words.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:
Since coming out of high school, I have learned so much about myself, the people around me and the world. I'm a Vietnamese American woman entering my 20s! I like to smile and have fun! I like penguins and singing and dancing with my friends and family.

My parents are from South Vietnam. My father served in South Vietnam's military for a year during the war. He then fled by captaining a boat in 1980. He immigrated to the U.S. and raised our family in Arlington, near Clarendon, in an area known as Little Saigon. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Little Saigon was popular. But the area became too expensive due to redevelopment, causing Vietnamese businesses to move. The Eden Center in Falls Church became a new Vietnamese cultural hub, our generation's Little Saigon, but it may suffer the same fate.

To keep our culture and presence alive, I am fighting to bring awareness to the issue by speaking out and helping an organization called the Viet Place Collective. It works to uphold the Viet community's legacy in the DMV. Currently, we are using anti-displacement tools and strategies to prevent the loss of Vietnamese businesses at Eden Center.

This is one of many issues I am advocating for along with many more in the future. I can't wait for the decades ahead; this is just a breathtaking beginning.

How do you feel about being a JKC semifinalist?
I am just so happy and extremely grateful for being chosen! I want to use the momentum from this achievement to fuel future endeavors. Also, I want to alleviate the financial burden and pressure on my aging parents, who continue to work for my education despite their declining health.

What brought you to NOVA?
I came to NOVA due to my family’s financial circumstances after the pandemic. NOVA had affordable tuition rates that would not leave me stressed out and deep in debt, and I lived close to the Annandale Campus. Also, by going to NOVA, I got to enjoy two extra years of being home with my loved ones and having free home-cooked meals!

Despite getting a lot of pushback about going to a community college and the stigma, it was at NOVA that I got the opportunity to step back and reflect on who I am and what I truly want. I thank NOVA for giving me a chance to find my passion, my purpose, and my future with a career in nursing.

I hope community college can be openly promoted as a good post-secondary school education decision for students who may need more time, have less money or have less traditional ideas of how to attain a job. When I transfer from NOVA, I wish to serve as an example of where community college can get you!

What are you studying at NOVA?
I confirmed the completion of my A.S. Health Sciences degree! Also, I got a Uniform Certification of General Studies (UCGS) at NOVA. As of now, I am in the process of transferring to a nursing school.

At NOVA, I liked promoting the Mental Health and Wellness Office and its resources like TimelyCare. As part of the AAPI Connect Peer Mentorship Program, a co-worker and I made a presentation on mental health. I researched facts and statistics on suicide, loneliness, the Asian cultural perspective on mental health and the effect of the model minority myth.

Currently, I am volunteering at INOVA Fairfax in the emergency department. In the past, I worked as a care manager at an assisted living facility in the memory care department, which focused on Alzheimer's and dementia residents.

Honestly, I had always liked the thought of going into health care since I was a kid. My Ông ngoại (grandfather on my mom's side) was a high-ranking combat medic during the Vietnam War. I never met him, but I would hear stories from my mother. I thought it was an honorable and valuable job he had.

I would love to meet my cousin in Vietnam who dreams of being a doctor. I want to think that we were both inspired to get into the health field by our grandfather.

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.
My experience at NOVA was an amazing time that I will always remember and be grateful for.

My favorite courses were anatomy and physiology, biomedical ethics, developmental psychology, nutrition and medical terminology. If you were ever near me, you would know how much I liked to nerd out on these topics.

I want to talk about my anatomy and physiology professor Samira Topchubashova. She is amazing at teaching this subject. Our class was small, so I made friends. Those friends went with me to my microbiology class with Swathi Seeke. She is also a great professor. My biomedical ethics professor Steven Stakland was a joy to have. He is extremely nice, as he invited my class to his apartment in D.C. to meet his family and have some appetizers.

I have to shout out to the amazing faculty I worked with as an AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) mentor: Dr. Carolyn Hurley, my supervisor, and the AANAPISI grant faculty Lead; Mei Lan Frame, the AANAPISI grant coordinator and Heather Moser, the AAPI intercultural learning and resource center assistant.

They have helped me so much throughout my time as NOVA's Asian Student Association (ASA) president, letting me borrow their center and services for meetings. They are so helpful and kind to those coming into the center and wonderful to work with.

I've made many friends that I hope to stay in contact with. We've gone through struggles and life lessons and made great memories together that I'll always cherish. I've seen them grow into amazing people and I know they will continue to care for their community. They have great futures ahead of them!

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
From my experience mentoring new students coming to NOVA, my advice is to get yourself out there! Try to be open to new experiences and take advantage of what you have at NOVA. It is one of the most diverse colleges in the United States. The people you meet are fascinating; you learn about their stories and perspectives. I think broadening our view of the world gives us a better understanding of what we can do to help create needed change.

So much can happen during your time at NOVA. I advise people to take the needed time to figure themselves out first. There really is no need to rush. Eventually, you'll find your place and what you want to do! Just enjoy the ride. I wish any student coming to NOVA the very best! 

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?
I've seen a lot of mental health issues in my community, and in the Asian community particularly. I've had devastating experiences with it among my family and friends. I lost someone I loved dearly. Someone I was very close to. Witnessing firsthand this person's pain and anguish changed me forever. I realized the problems this person was facing are unique to Asian Americans.

I want to help others and save lives. It's the reason why I want to become a psychiatric nurse and why I want to focus on mental health care in Asian communities.

After graduating from NOVA, I'd like to transfer to an in-state four-year institution for their nursing program. I chose in-state for my undergraduate work to stay close to my loved ones and take care of my family.

After nursing school, I'd like to become a travel nurse and go wherever I am needed. Then, I'll go back to the United States to get my master's, probably in California, where I hear there is a large Asian population. My goal is to someday open my own practice as a mental health nurse practitioner or work at a practice in a predominantly Asian community to provide mental health care.

I am so thankful and feel fortunate for this moment. There is so much I envision myself accomplishing, and I am ready to head to the next step in my life. I hope my drive to help people never stops, no matter how hard it gets.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.