Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PHCC diploma is part of the American dream for aspiring nurse

When she was 8, Sophea Danh worked alongside her mother in the rice paddies and vegetable fields of Vietnam. One of four children originally from Cambodia, she did her part at an early age to help support her family.

"I was tempted sometimes to think that life wasn't fair," said Danh, now 22 and living in New Port Richey. "I knew, though, that if I worked hard enough, good things would come."

This week Danh will reap the benefits of her hard work. Today she will graduate with her associate's degree from Pasco-Hernando Community College. On Friday, she will earn the title of American citizen at a swearing-in ceremony in Tampa. And on Saturday, she will celebrate her 23rd birthday.

"I don't know how I did it, but I did," she said with a smile. "Everything is good."

Her mother, Jessica Danh, brought the family to the United States in search of opportunity. Life in Cambodia had been challenging for this divorced mother of four, and she wanted her kids to have a chance at an advanced education and a prosperous future. The family originally settled in Massachusetts, and Sophea Danh graduated from Lowell High School.

Florida's warm weather and diverse melting pot drew the family to the Sunshine State in 2009. Yet, when it came time for her to go to college, Sophea Danh initially balked at the idea.

"I didn't think I was smart enough," she said quietly. "I didn't know English very well."

Aside from the encouragement of her mother and her stepfather, Michael Bardzik, Danh also had a dream for the future. She wanted to become a nurse.

"When I was young, I had to get (stomach) surgery, and I met a nurse who took care of me so well," she said. "I thought, 'I want to be like her one day.' "

During her time at PHCC, Danh has done much to prepare for her intended career. The student who thought she wasn't smart enough for school now speaks three languages (Cambodian and Vietnamese as well as English, which she says her PHCC instructors helped her master) and she is a member of the PHCC Phi Theta Kappa honor society. This semester alone she balanced five courses with a steady regimen of study and preparation for her citizenship test, which she passed April 10.

She also continued her work at two volunteer jobs, serving as a tennis coach at the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center and as an assistant at Life Care Center, a rehabilitative facility in New Port Richey.

"Our residents are always asking 'When is Sophea coming back?' " said Denise Hoban, the activities director at Life Care Center. "She always smiles and is a true joy. I wish I had more of her here."

"She's such a bright and articulate young lady," added Life Care receptionist Trish Herman. "She's caring, not only with residents, but with volunteers as well. Caring comes naturally to Sophea."

Danh enjoys talking with the residents and serving them ice cream, she said, "but somehow it doesn't seem like enough. I want to do more, which is why I want to be a nurse."

Also building on her experience at the recreation center, Danh said she might like to have a sideline as a professional tennis coach. In the meantime, she has applied for PHCC's registered nurse education program.

"Work hard" is the advice Danh gives to other immigrants who seek to make their way in America. And the benefits, in her mind, are always worth the effort.

"I used to smile only on the outside," she said. "Now I smile from the inside out. I'm so happy here."

Class of 2013

More than 370 degrees and certificates will be conferred today at Pasco-Hernando Community College's two spring commencement ceremonies to accommodate the growing number of graduates. An estimated 718 spring graduates were eligible to participate, including 408 associate in arts degree recipients.

The ceremony for students earning an associate in science degree, applied technology diploma, certificate or GED is at 10:30 a.m. For students earning an associate in arts degree, it is at 4 p.m.

Both ceremonies will be in the physical education center at the west campus at 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey. Those not able to attend may also view the proceedings at

PHCC diploma is part of the American dream for aspiring nurse 04/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 7:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut


    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview


    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander


    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]