Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

February 7, 2011

Vietnam-born; Yale-bound

Americus-Sumter student excels in academics, leadership

AMERICUS — Minh Nguyen’s primary passion is film, and everything related to it. As a senior at Americus-Sumter County High School, Minh has worked with her journalism and English teachers to create “Panther News,” a weekly news program at the school produced entirely by Minh and her fellow classmates.

Minh is active in every production aspect of Panther News. The process begins when she and her “script writer” sit down and decide a theme for the episode. She then has her “news editor” go to the school office to get any announcements or events for that particular week. The writer then writes dialogue for each topic and adds transitions to make the episode flow properly through the different announcements.

Minh utilizes her personal video camera to shoot the episode in their “news studio.”

“It’s a teachers’ lounge, and we took over the teachers’ lounge for our little place to film,” she said.

After the scenes are filmed, music and other special effects are added to the raw footage.

“I do the editing at home on my personal computer,” Minh said.

The video is uploaded on Mondays to “SchoolTube,” which is a Web site similar to YouTube but used for school and educational purposes. Then the students get a chance to watch Panther News during Panther Period, a free activity period, on Tuesdays.

When asked how this all got started, Minh said, “I’m always interested in film, and there’s no film class at the school.” She is worried, however, that Panther News may have difficulty running smoothly after she is gone. “The big problem is when I leave, they won’t have the equipment,” Minh said.

Although the school does own a video camera, Minh is currently utilizing the film editing software installed on her own computer to edit the episodes, as well as using her own camera to film.

Panther News is not Minh’s only production experience; she was also involved with One-Act Play for two years as an assistant director. According to Minh, the crew and funding for the play was “very small,” so those involved often “had to improvise.”

She is also a member of the Beta Club and the Math Team at Americus-Sumter High. In addition, Minh played clarinet and saxophone in the school’s marching band and jazz band for three years. She received the award for Outstanding Woodwind Player for the band last year.

Minh is also a first-year member of the Americus-Sumter swim team.

“I quit band and, suddenly, there was all this free time,” Minh says of her reason for joining another activity.

She swims the 100-yard breast stroke and various relays. Minh was also proud to announce that the Americus-Sumter High swim team recently won its region meet and are now Region Champions.

Originally from Vietnam, Minh and her family moved to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. They first moved to Atlanta where some of their family resides and later relocated to Leslie, where her parents now operate a chicken farm. Minh also has a younger brother, Duc, who is a junior at Americus-Sumter High School.

Minh says that the most significant positive influences have come from her father and mother.

“My dad — my parents — sacrificed a lot for us by moving over here (to the U.S.),” Minh said. “They would’ve been better off there, but not so much us.”

Minh’s father’s family still lives in Vietnam, while her mother’s side resides in the U.S. Her parents’ primary reason for the move was the educational opportunities that the U.S. could offer their children. They wanted Minh and Duc to have a chance to go to good colleges.

Their dreams have, without a doubt, been realized, as Minh was admitted through early decision to Yale University. She is also considering the University of Southern California for its film program, but may simply wait until graduate school to take that route.

The multiple academic honors and awards she has received include the Top Honor for maintaining the highest average in her class for the past three years and a perfect score on the Georgia graduation tests in social studies and English.

These seem like minor achievements compared to her experience as a LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America) Scholar during the organization’s summer program hosted by Princeton University. According to the organization’s Web site, LEDA “is a national organization committed to identifying and developing the academic and leadership potential of exceptional public high school students of modest means” and to provide these students with “access to the nation's top colleges and universities.”

As Minh describes it, the multi-step process for entrance into the program began after one of the organization’s representatives made a recruiting visit to Americus-Sumter High. After the visit, students from the high school had the opportunity to apply for the program through a three-step process, including a phone interview.

Minh was the student chosen from Americus-Sumter to attend the seven-week session at Princeton, which included leadership skill building, background in history and politics, and weekend visits to surrounding schools such as New York University (NYU), Georgetown University, Yale and others. Through the program, students not only received leadership training, but also “one-on-one college counseling, intensive tutoring for SAT, ACT and SAT 2 ... and individual writing instruction provided by specialists in writing skills,” according to the Web site. LEDA Scholars received all these amenities free of charge.

College tips provided by this program quickly became relevant to Minh, as she has been taking almost all of her classes at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) during her last two semesters in high school. During fall semester, she only had one online class at Americus-Sumter High, while she was attending four classes at GSW.

“I like college classes,” Minh said. “You have free time; you don’t have to be in class eight hours a day.”

In what little spare time she has, Minh helps out at the family chicken farm.

“School and extra-curriculars pretty much take up my life,” she said.

However, she does find time to “watch a lot of movies” and is a big fan of Netflix online video rental service. She also enjoys painting and considers herself an amateur filmmaker.

“That’s my lifelong goal — directing,” she said.

Some of her favorite directors are Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception), and Marc Forster (The Kite Runner, Quantum of Solace)

Minh also takes time to do some writing, which she describes as “just something I’m experimenting with.”

“When you start out, you have to have your own stories,” she said.

Minh’s passion for film is sure to drive her to success in a very competitive, demanding industry.

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