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Group Seeks to Help US-Cambodian Teens

A ceremony at Mosqueda Community Center in Fresno, Calif., was held last week in support of Cambodian teenagers in the US.

The Cambodian Reconciliation Committee, which held the ceremony June 21 to mark its 8th anniversary, seeks to show students the support they have in the community, said organizer Sopheaktra Nou.

The committee helps teens with behavioral problems get back in school and offers family and individual counseling to identify underlying issues.

So far, more than 200 graduates have been helped by the committee, and the June 21 event honored 22 former drop-outs who later returned to school and graduated, as well as 12 graduates from Duncan Poly Tech High, one Fresno City College graduate, and one California State University of Fresno graduate.

"We do this to thank both the students and their parents for the hard work and effort of completing high school," Sopheaktra Nou said. "We believe that the accomplishments of our Cambodian youths must be recognized by the entire community, not just their families."

Dinny Kim, a Cambodian-American police officer, said young people who don't complete high school face many more problems in later life than people who graduate.

"Parents neglected to pay attention to the child's needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed care, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child: this parental behavior can lead to the child's poor self-image," Dinny Kim said.

Fresno City Council Blong Xiong said he encouraged the youth to participate and to ask for help.

"Don't be afraid, don't be shied," Xiong said. "I let them know that we are here for them and that they are not alone. We've gone through the same thing that they have, and we are here to support them because their generation is very important."

"I hope the future Cambodian generation stays out of trouble," said Tola Yang, a Cambodian-American deputy district attorney for Fresno County said. "I want them to make sure that they keep their lives straight and make sure they are doing well and not committing crimes."

Savy Yang, a radiation therapist and former Fresno high school student, said in the neighborhoods where she grew up the main messages were clear.

"How do I get rich, or at least do well in life?" she said. "An aspiration for every Cambodian-American is to do well, or at least to be able to succeed or fail on his or her own steam, and to be able to take care of their respective families and responsibilities."