Buddhist monk Venerable Somnieng '10 grew up in Cambodia. He was a poor boy—with a fierce desire for education. At the age of 14, he entered the monastery, eventually becoming second head monk at the Wat Damnak, a Buddhist temple in the city of Siem Reap.
There he founded the Life and Hope Association, providing food to local families who, in exchange, allowed their children to attend school at the temple.
In 2005, the young Somnieng was approached by a visiting American dentist, Dr. Jon Ryder. They struck up a friendship, and Dr. Ryder conceived a plan to bring Somnieng back to America, specifically, the Quad Cities. He contacted some folks he knew at St. Ambrose. The university was able to secure a cultural visa for Somnieng—and eventually offered him a full scholarship.
Because of delays in obtaining a study visa, it took several years for Somnieng to realize his dream of a college education.
After graduating in 2010, Somnieng received the amazing offer of a place in Harvard University's prestigious and exclusive Kennedy School of Government, to study for his master's in public administration degree.
Read a Quad-City Times story about Somnieng's journey and see pictures of a recent visit to the SAU campus, where the realization of his dream for a college education began.