Somneang Chan came to Delta County from Cambodia 16 years ago. Chan was an employee of United Nations in Cambodia. The late Marce Teas of Redlands Mesa was also a U.N. employee.
While working for the U.N. in Cambodia, Marce hired Somneang (Som) to help with a food distribution project for Cambodian river boat people. The two became fast friends.
When Marce was getting ready to retire and return to the U.S., she asked Som what, above all else, she would want to do in life. Som's response was to come to the U.S. and get a college degree.
Marce Teas and husband Jamie Meiklejohn of Redlands Mesa sponsored Chan to come to the U.S.
Mesa State College would not accept Som's Cambodian high school credentials, but would accept a GED (General Education Development) diploma.
Three Redlands Mesa residents -- Danielle Carre-Burritt, Maria Forster and Patricia Lewis -- tutored Som in preparing for her GED, after which she was accepted in the Mesa State nursing school.
Som graduated Mesa State College, passed the Colorado nursing certification tests, became a registered nurse and was on the nursing staff at Community Hospital in Grand Junction for several years.
Eighteen other new citizens took their citizenship oath with Som last week. The 18 came from 13 different countries.