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As a girl growing up in Thailand, Sirikwan O’Gorman remembers watching her grandfather – a teacher and shaman – help those who were sick. People would come from all over to the small wooden house he’d built himself in the Phetchabun countryside.
“My grandfather was my idol,” said O’Gorman. “He had a gift for healing people. While he wasn’t a doctor, he knew a lot about medicine. I wanted to be like him.”
Years later and a country away, she’s on the brink of completing that dream. On May 8, she’ll be graduating from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Healthy Lifestyles Coaching (Health Sciences) – the first in her family to earn a college degree. She is graduating through the #starbucks College Achievement Plan, which offers all eligible U.S. partners full tuition reimbursement for an undergraduate degree from ASU online.
While her grandfather focused on healing the whole body, O’Gorman is going to become a dental hygienist and focus on changing lives through improving their teeth, something she saw the power of when she was working in a dental office. “Teeth are the first thing people notice in one another. Great smiles help people gain more confidence,” she said. “And it makes me happy to see other people happy.”
It’s a path her grandfather influenced in more ways than one. He had been the heart of the family and when he died in 2001, they were devastated. In the midst of her grief, O’Gorman’s mother, Sirirat, decided her family needed a fresh start away from Phetchabun. She made the difficult decision to leave O’Gorman and brother, Suppavit, with their father and paternal grandmother as she headed to America to find work and establish a new home.
“It was a difficult time because I had to grow up faster than the other kids,” O’Gorman said. “I had to step up and take care of the family without my mom being there.”
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