By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 9, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE—Huy Trinh wanted to reach more students at Our Lady of Mercy High School whose grades needed extra help.
The existing National Honor Society tutoring project wasn’t reaching many students, so he changed it to serve the students better. He assigned members of the academic club to teachers who appointed the tutors to students. When asked about his concern for others, he’s reticent.
“I don’t like to show off what I do,” said the 18-year-old. “So, I just do it out of the kindness of my heart. I just personally like to help people, and I like to see them smile and hearing them say thank you is a reward in return that I personally enjoy.”
A native of Vietnam, Trinh has been a quiet leader on the cross country team and in the National Honor Society, played a role in the school musical, served the homeless on an immersion trip to downtown Atlanta, and has been part of the student pro-life group on the Fayetteville campus. He was recently named a Gates Millennium Scholar, making him one of 1,000 students nationwide in 2013 to receive a good-through-graduation college scholarship he’ll use at the University of Georgia and for future graduate school.
The quiet and ambitious teen made an impression on the Our Lady of Mercy campus where school leaders said he is “a behind-the-scenes kind of person.”
Trinh is one of four children and lives with his mother, Christine Nguyen. His father lives in Louisiana. His parents are divorced. He was interviewed at his mother’s beauty salon in Morrow, where he works after school. He is a member of Our Lady of Vietnam Church, Riverdale, where he dances. Trinh knows he isn’t the greatest dancer, but he does it because dancing is important to his culture and it brightens community events.
“Life and the world has so much for us in it. There’s so much you can do in the world. I don’t want to contain myself, to limit myself to only doing just this or just that. I want to do different things,” said Trinh.
For a kid who panicked at the idea of running a mile, Trinh found a second family and a sport when he went out for the cross country team.
“I could barely do my first mile. I was like, ‘What am I getting myself into?’” he said about his first tryout.
For three years, he tried his best on the 5,000-meter course. He wasn’t a standout. His best time ever was 18:46, earning him 11th place at the Darlington Cross Country Festival. But striving to be a runner built many friendships.
“I had so much fun doing cross country,” he said. “Even though the races may be long, be difficult, in the end, we all love one another.”
It was still the “best decision to do cross country,” he said. “They gave me the support I really needed in my life. They supported me all the way through. It just helped me to work harder, and by me working harder it inspired them as well.”
Team coach Matt Hofkes said Trinh has the drive coaches dream of in their athletes.
“He has been the one I’ve gone to when I need someone to step up and lead and get something done,” he said. “Huy works extremely hard and is a model of the effort and attitude that coaches wish to see from all of their athletes. He has always been willing to give of himself and put others first.”
Looking ahead, Trinh said his goal is to work as a physical therapist. During high school he received help from the school’s athletic trainer and was impressed how those skills helped heal his aches.
While his family dreams that he will go to medical school, Trinh said, “I’m not a big fan of blood.” Plus he believes as a physical therapist rather than a doctor he can develop stronger relationships with patients.
For incoming students, Trinh said high school is the time to venture into unfamiliar territory. New experiences lead to the unexpected. His willingness to try cross country led him to a new mentor and new friends.
“Don’t limit yourself,” he advises. “Explore your options in high school. Try new things in high school, even though your peers may say, that sounds lame, don’t do it. Do it anyways, try at least once before you make a judgment.”