Isle native Jim Haglund was inspired by a story

A mother's dream for her daughter to have an education in the United States led to sacrifices that resulted in great rewards seven years later.A mother's dream for her daughter to have an education in the United States led to sacrifices that resulted in great rewards seven years later. One family's story became the inspiration for another family to step forward and offer a helping hand.

The Haglund name is widely recognized around Isle. While Jim and Kathy Haglund do not live in the area, their roots are deeply planted here.

Jim was raised on a farm just north of Isle. He left home in 1955 to attend the University of Minnesota and he remained in the Twin Cities area ever since. He is currently the president and owner of Central Container Corporation, a Minneapolis-based manufacturer of packaging products.

Jim and Kathy heard a young student tell her story at a scholarship brunch at Augsburg College. Several honor students spoke at the event, but one student made a lasting impression in the eyes of the Haglunds.

Chau (Tina) Nguyen will be 21 in August. She left her home in Vietnam when she was 14 years old on a scholarship student exchange program. She has not seen her mother since then.

As Nguyen spoke at the brunch, Jim and Kathy listened intently.

"She was just so inspirational - so bright, bubbly and charismatic," Jim Haglund said. "Her personality was so warm."

Nguyen spoke about how important financial support was for her Augsburg experience.

She was so positive and uplifting," Haglund said. "And at the very end she told her story of how she hadn't seen her mother in nearly seven years."

It was her mother's dream for Nguyen to have an education in America. Her mother made many sacrifices in order for her dream to come true.

"There was one sad note to her story," Haglund said. "Chau said her mother, Xuan Loc Dang, couldn't be there to see her graduate."

From there, the story just got legs of its own, he said. He and his wife felt the need to help.

And help they did. They paid for Nguyen's mother to come to America - a trip of over 7,000 miles - so she could see the realization of her dream, to see her daughter graduate from college.

"Who wouldn't want to help?" Haglund said. "Put yourself in their shoes and you just - help."

Haglund said his hope is that his actions will inspire others to do good for others.

Chau's journey

When she was 14 years old Chau (Tina) Nguyen won a scholarship for English literature and math. She was the youngest student in her nation's history to win the honor, she said.

She said Chau is her formal name and Tina is her casual name. "Like a nickname," she said. "All of my friends and family call me Tina."

Her mother felt in her heart the best thing for her daughter was to go to America to further her education. She did everything she could to get her daughter a student exchange visa making numerous phone calls, sometimes staying up all night. She found an American host family for Tina. And then she remortgaged her house.

Nguyen left her family, a brother, sister, mother and grandmother, and her country to journey to Oregon - half the world and 23 hours away.

It was pretty scarry for a young child to be pulled from her family and the only home she had ever known to move to a foreign country speaking only a little English.

"I learned fast," she said. "I had to grow up at the age of 14. I had kind of an identity crisis. Learning to live an American life when I wasn't even sure how to live Vietnamese yet."

She graduated from high school. Her mother then found another host family and program that allowed her to stay in America to attend Augsburg College studying international business and math.

Nguyen said she was honored to have been asked to speak at the scholarship brunch. She said she spoke of how lucky she was to have had the opportunity she did to come to America with no money in her hand and graduate from college.

"My biggest regret was that my mom had worked so hard. It was her dream and it became my dream. And she wouldn't see her dream come true."

After the speeches, she said she was told Jim and Kathy Haglund didn't even think twice when they offered to pay for her mom to come to Minnesota.

"I couldn't believe it," Nguyen said. "It was the most unselfish thing I could imagine. I mean, I didn't even know them and they offered this gift - this wonderful gift. They wanted my dream to come true."

She said she still couldn't believe it until her mother arrived at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, two days before the graduation ceremony on May 3.

"I was afraid she wouldn't recognize me - that I had become too American," Nguyen said. "I didn't recognize her at first. But I am still short and small, so it didn't take long for her to find me."

She said not only did the Haglunds pay for her mother's airline ticket, but they gave the two money to spend so her mother could experience Minnesota. And they invited Tina and her mother to their home for Mother's Day welcoming them into their family.

She plans to take a year off to pursue an internship at U.S. Bank in a management training program. She is applying for an MBA program at the University of Minnesota, St. Thomas or Augsburg.

Her mother returned to Vietnam on June 6. It was wonderful to have her visit and see Minnesota. And she knows it never would have happened without the Haglund family.

"It is beyond words what they made happen. We know we can never pay them back," Nguyen said. "They are our angels. I am so honored to have met them. You don't see miracles like this every day."

Nguyen said she knows she has been given a gift of kindness by many people who have helped her in her young life. She said she has learned a lot by her journey alone. "It is not just going to college and graduating, although that is so great, but it is the little things I learned along the way. Graduating is not my final destination."

Nguyen said she plans to return to Vietnam after she finishes her educational plans. It has also been her dream and her mother's dream to help children in her home country. She wants to use her knowledge to open a school for homeless children.

"If you saw those children - I see what I have and they don't have - you would do the same," Nguyen said.

Helping the many homeless children in Vietnam is just one small way that she can help Jim Haglund know that his unconditional act of kindness will be passed on through her to future generations in Vietnam.

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