Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Sang Ngoc Nguyen, a custodian at St. Jude the Apostle School, Sandy Springs, immigrated to the United States in 1993 after spending eight years in a Vietnamese hard labor prison. Nguyen learned English and eventually took the steps to become a U.S. citizen.


Working at St. Jude ‘a dream come true’ for war refugee

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 6, 2014

ATLANTA—A one-time prisoner in a hard labor camp, Sang Ngoc Nguyen was honored by the St. Jude the Apostle School community for his school service.

Nguyen was an army captain as Americans left the war-torn country and the North Vietnamese swept into power at the end of the Vietnam war. His service in the armed forces put him on the government’s radar. He was imprisoned for eight years in the labor camp.

Today, he considers his life a “Cinderella” story, working at the Catholic school in the Atlanta suburbs, watching his grandchildren attend the school, and himself taking the oath of citizenship to become an American.

When asked how working in a Catholic school impacted his life, Nguyen said it is a blessing because the staff is so friendly and full of love.

Nguyen will see graduates of the Sandy Springs school return for a visit. He is delighted when they say hello. He said it is always a surprise to him that they remember him. He said, “It melts my heart.”

He and his family came to the United States after they were finally given government permission to leave his native country in March 1993. He has worked as a custodian at the school for 15 years.

In nominating Nguyen, school leaders said he is the first staff member to wish another a good morning and is simply excellent at maintaining the school, which in 2013 marked its 50th anniversary.

Nguyen made it his responsibility to learn English and begin his path to citizenship. It took work, but Nguyen earned the right to call himself an American. School leaders applauded his perseverance in achieving the goal and said he served as a role model to the school community

Nguyen called his life’s story “a dream come true.” He said working at the school has been a blessing for him and his family. When asked about a highlight of his career, Nguyen said being selected as the employee of the year is a honor he could never dream of.

“The St. Jude community reciprocates this sentiment, and proudly recognizes Mr. Sang for all of his achievements and loyalty to the school,” said the school’s nomination.