Last week was National Counseling Week, perfect timing for the notification received by Scavo High School counselor Carmon Rasmussen about one of her protégés.

Nou Vue is a senior at Scavo after transferring there a year ago. She’s also a single mother who was in a hurry to graduate and get whatever job she could to support her two-year-old daughter. TJ Maxx, she thought, might have a spot for her.

Not so fast, Rasmussen advised her, don’t sell yourself, and Penny, short.

Her counselor could see that Nou has great potential and steered her, kicking and screaming, into the medical fields. All it took was Rasmussen to get her enrolled in the CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) program at Central Campus (easier said than done) and away Nou went, earning college credits towards a nursing certification. Now there’s no stopping her.

Read the linked essay that she submitted in the annual scholarship contest offered by the Iowa School Counselors Association and see not only why Nou won the scholarship, but also why Rasmussen must feel like she too was awarded a prize.

We also read the following excerpt from Rasmussen’s staff bio on the Scavo website and found it revealing: “How did I become a school counselor? Interestingly enough, I didn’t have a great experience with my own counselor in high school. I got the message that I wouldn’t make it through college, and I probably should just get a job. WHAT?! I left that meeting very confused.”

Pretty much the opposite of the dynamic between Nou and Carmon. The student was resigned to a low bar and the counselor set it higher.

Nou came to the United States from Thailand in 2005. She was a quick learner who had little trouble becoming fluent and literate in English, but she wasn’t always the driven student that she is now.

“When Nou transferred to Scavo last year she only had two and a half credits toward graduation,” said Rasmussen. Twenty-three are required. “Right away she started racking them up. It was obvious how bright she is, and what a hard worker. I convinced her to enroll in the health science careers track so she could make more money.”

Because all Nou wanted to do was get a diploma, go to work and take care of her daughter and grandmother.

“I was mad at her,” Nou recalled about Rasmussen. She even went over her head and complained to Scavo administrators that her counselor “was interfering in my education.”

When she retells that episode now with Rasmussen sitting beside her, they both laugh.

“That’s right, I did interfere,” Rasmussen said. “Just doing my job.”

Pretty soon, Nou was taking college English and microbiology and observing surgeries at area hospitals and working at Fountain West Health Care Center in West Des Moines as a CNA.

She’s a mother, student and employee who doesn’t have the luxury of divvying those roles up the way she might prefer.

“Sometimes when I cuddle with Penny in the morning I wish I could just stay with her all day,” Nou says. “Sometimes I cry a little.”

Then she gets up and gets back to work on her drastically revised master plan.

Next year it’s DMACC to complete an associate degree in nursing. Then, Iowa State for a bachelor’s degree. After that, med school, maybe Des Moines University or the University of Iowa.

“I don’t know where my residency in pediatrics will be,” she says, smiling. “I haven’t gotten that far yet.”

Not yet. But before Penny ages out of that field, her mom might just be her doctor, too.

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