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Graduating High School Student - Already Pursuing Career

Worthington Campus

One senior student roaming the halls of Worthington High School was born Lucky - literally.

“My cousin named me Lucky,” explained Lucky Moo, a nontraditional senior who will be 20 years old when he graduates. “I was born in 1994 at midnight, between Sunday and Monday, in the jungle. There was no doctor, no nurse, to help my mom. My dad and my uncle were there. My cousin got there, and she named me Lucky.”

At the time, Lucky’s family was living in their native Burma, now called Myanmar. They are Karen - an ethnic group composed mainly of subsistence farmers living in small mountain villages. Because of civil war and a military dictatorship, the Karen have been persecuted in their homeland, and many have fled to refugee camps in Thailand. Such was the case for Lucky’s family.

“I come from a really proud people,” he explained. “Fifty or 60 years ago, nobody knew about the Karen, but it’s a big group who live in Burma.”

Although he was born in the mountains of Burma, Lucky doesn’t remember much of that life. He recalls that his uncle was killed by soldiers.

“Me and my parents went looking for him,” he recalled somberly. “They cut off his head. But I don’t really hate those people. They had to do it, because they were told to do it. They had to do what the boss tells them to do or they would be killed.”

Lucky’s family moved from their village in 1997 and eventually wound up in a Thai refugee camp, where they would reside for seven years in a state of limbo.

“You can’t ever go out of the camp,” he recalled. “If the officials caught you, you went to jail, because you were not a citizen of Thailand. You had to stay in camp all the time. I go to school there for grade 2 through 9.”

In July 2010, Lucky’s entire family was granted the opportunity to come to the United States as refugees. His father, Hsa Mu Taw and mother, Pu Lay, also have two daughters, one older and one younger than Lucky. None of them spoke any English when they arrived in the United States, settling first in Boise, Idaho.

Initially, Lucky attended the Boise Language Academy School as a ninth-grader, and when it closed down he went to a regular high school. He joined the school’s ROTC program and worked at an Asian market, where he was promoted to supervisor.

When his older sister was being married in Texas in 2012, he quit his job to attend the wedding. They might have stayed in Texas, he noted, except he was at an educational disadvantage there.

“I was over 18, so if I stayed in Texas, I would have to pay for school,” he explained, adding that there was a family connection to Worthington. “My aunt is here, so we all came here except my older sister.”

Lucky was the first of his family to secure a job in Worthington, working in the auto department at Wal-Mart. His father is now employed at JBS.

His junior year at Worthington High School was intense, as he struggled to better his English skills and advance his studies.

“Last year, I had four classes here (at WHS), from 8 to 2:50, and then I had classes at night school from 4 to 7. After that I worked until midnight,” Lucky detailed. “In Idaho, they had different credits, so I had to catch up with the students here.”

Some classes come easier than others for Lucky. His favorites are the automechanics classes, which he now takes at Minnesota West Community & Technical College  - learning skills that he can use in his current position at Wal-Mart and in a future career. “I like to work on cars,” he said with a big grin. “Anytime in my free time, I like to work on cars.”

Vocabulary is something Lucky struggles with in all his classes. “Sometimes I don’t even know what they are talking about,” he admitted. “If there is vocabulary I don’t understand, I have to go home and look it up. I have to look it up in the dictionary to find the meaning of the word.”

But even with his language difficulties, Lucky’s diligent studies have paid off with mostly As and Bs — although he says his grades have slipped a bit this year — and several academic honors. He’s also been named Employee of the Month at Wal-Mart, he added sheepishly.

Although he hasn’t had time for extracurricular activities, Lucky is a well-known fellow in the halls at WHS, many people greeting him by his fortuitous name.

“I do have a lot of friends,” he said. “Somehow, everybody knows me here. They know my name, and sometimes I don’t even know who they are.”

Lucky is on track to graduate next month, and then he plans to continue his auto mechanic studies on the Jackson campus of Minnesota West. Because he’s already taken some classes here, it will only take him a year and a half to complete the program.

Someday he dreams of owning his own auto repair shop. Because he now lives in America, he realizes that dream is not out of reach.

“When I was born, we didn’t have electricity,” he explained. “My family, they were really poor. But it just keeps getting better and better. We start really poor, but go up and up and up.”

Between school, work and helping his parents, Lucky doesn’t have much time for socializing. He does have a girlfriend, Mu Yoei Pow, who lives in Huron, S.D. They met while both living in Idaho. They see each other every few months, as Lucky has relatives in Huron, and talk on the phone.

As he reflects on how his life has changed since coming to the United States, Lucky feels like he is living up to his name. The cousin who gave him the moniker — now a teacher in Australia — knew English, but his family didn’t understand its meaning at the time.

“I didn’t understand what my name is until I came here,” Lucky said. “In my language (Karen), it doesn’t have any meaning. Now I understand.”

Courtesy of Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers who can be reached at 507-376-7327.