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2016 SAILers

Introducing our 13 SAILers in this year's Summer Study Abroad in Laos (SAIL) program (June 27-July 31). We are proud to have a diverse group of talented and bright participants, which consists of thirteen Lao or Iu-Mien decent, fourteen females, and one male. The Center for Lao Studies is excited to collaborate with the McConnell Foundation, which sponsored six students and three chaperons as a part of the McConnell Foundation Fellowship.
With the assistance of our in-country Program Leader, Mr. Kalathone Kouaykesone, our participants will experience the language and culture of the country through daily language classes with top professors from the National University of Laos, a history and culture class taught by a Lao historian, and real-life Lao experiences outside the classroom where students can create a better understand of the country, its peoples, and society.

Kalathone Kouaykesone (2016 Program Leader)

Kalathone was born in a village of Hinboun district, central Khammouane province. For the year 2016 I am very excited to be the program leader.

Kalathone has Bachelor degree in English teaching from the National University of Laos (1976-1980). Since 1981 to 2012 working with many projects such as Nam Ngum fisheries project, Lao news agency, American embassy, UNDP, ILO, FAO, World Bank project at the Ministry of Finance and others. From 2013 until now worked as freelance interpreter/translator.

For the year 2016 worked as program leader for SAIL activities and very exited in working with SAIL during five weeks program in Laos.

Erik is a Center for Lao Studies scholarship recipient and is a graduate of California Lutheran University (CLU) where he majored in Global Studies, German, and Asian Studies. He developed an interest in sustainable food systems through working at the CLU campus garden, then transformed this interest into an academic passion when he refocused his studies on urban food security and inclusion.  

Since graduation, Erik has lived in China and traveled to Laos, where he observed the countries' agricultural systems in dialogue with development strategy. He currently works in Ventura County food justice and affordable housing circles, serves on a local food cooperative steering committee, and authors a website called Good Food Gratitude and his travel blog, Bushmeat Stirfry.

 Erik was selected as a Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst Graduate Scholar for 2016-18, and plans to study environmental policy in hopes of returning to Laos as a researcher in that field.

Feuy is a McConnell Foundation Fellow and is a sophomore at Shasta College where she is studying to become an electrical engineer. Her parents and four siblings were born in Laos but moved to Redding, CA in 1995, where Feuy was born. She will be graduating next spring and hopefully transferring to University of California at Berkeley.


Of Iu-Mien heritage, Fuey likes to contribute to the Shasta County Iu-Mien Community by dancing for events such as the Iu-Mien New Year celebration, weddings, and birthday gatherings.

Regarding the SAIL program, Fuey states: "I was always interested in going to Laos to learn about the country's history, language, and culture. As I was growing up, my mom would surround me with stories about how she use to live and how she was in the refugee camps before coming to the United States. She would tell me how she would harvest her rice farm and how she misses certain types of snacks. This created my love for our culture and background. I believe this experience will really help me understand the background of where my family comes from, as well as help me to develop as an individual."

Jamie is a McConnell Foundation Fellow, and was born and lives in Redding, California. She is pursuing a major in Liberal Studies at Shasta College and plans to transfer to Chico State University with the intention of becoming an elementary school teacher. Raised by a single mother who supported a whole family of four has provided her with insight into what life is like for a first-generation migrant in America. Jamie's whole family is from Muang Sing, Laos and speaks Tai Lue. She is able to understand Lao language, but is looking to the SAIL program to further her ability to speak and write in Lao, to develop a deeper understanding of her family's past, to experience Laos' geography, and to draw inspiration from this trip. This trip to Laos will be her first time traveling abroad and she is very grateful to have this opportunity to experience her family's home country.   

In the future, she would like to work as an educator with struggling kids in minority ethnic groups in her community, drawing upon her own childhood experience as part of a minority group. She currently volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Community Center to encourage and cultivate moral, community and intellectual development among Redding's youth. 

Jasmine is a McConnell Foundation Fellow and is currently a sophomore at Enterprise High School in Redding, CA, where she is active in multiple musical groups. She is also a member of numerous clubs and serves in students government. When she is not busy studying for her honors/AP/college preparatory classes or juggling her activities, she loves to spend her free time with her family and friends.






Melinda is  a McConnell Foundation Fellow and will be starting her junior year at San Jose State University this fall, majoring in Sociology. After college, she hopes to explore careers in the social services and community fields. Apart from school, Melinda enjoys spending her time volunteering for nonprofit organizations in her hometown of Redding, CA, and currently holds an internship with Mercy Beyond Borders, an organization that teaches young women in South Sudan and Haiti how to be prominent members of their communities through education. 

Of Lao heritage, Melinda's parents and their families immigrated from Thailand in 1985 and 1990 so she has grown up listening to stories of how different their lives were before their journey to America. She particularly admires her grandfather's bravery in being able to fight in the Vietnam War and subsequently relocating to the United States with little understanding of American culture, managing to provide for his family while fighting his own battles with PTSD.

Melinda is excited and filled with gratitude to be participating in the SAIL program as a McConnell Fellow because she believes that being able to fully immerse herself in Lao culture will serve as a foundation for

understanding the Asian aspects of her identity. She hopes to building upon this foundation to preserve Lao culture, as well as to break down cultural barriers and provide outreach to undeserved communities.

Michelle is a McConnell Foundation Fellow chaperon and is excited to have the opportunity to embark on a cultural immersion in Laos.  For many years, Michelle has worked at her local high school. As such, she is interested in primary schools and educational programs. She's fun, adventurous, and loves to eat.






Pan is a McConnell Foundation Fellow chaperon and was born in Laos and came to the United States at a young age.  Having grown up as part of the "1.5" generation, she speaks both Lao and English.  After graduating from high school, Pan attended University of California at Davis, where she earned her bachelor's degree. She is an active member of the local community in Redding, CA. Additionally, her hobbies include running, reading, and playing volleyball.



Sabrina is a McConnell Foundation Fellow and a recent high school graduate with plans to attend California State University at Sacramento. Sabrina is of Iu-Mien heritage and her parents are refugees from Laos. "As an Asian American, I've always wondered where my parents came from," states Sabrina. "I am really excited to learn a different culture from Iu-Mien. I hope to learn what differences and similarities the Lao people have with the Iu-Mien. Communication is key, so getting a chance to learn a different language is a huge opportunity for me. " Sabrina enjoys singing and dancing, and is especially drawn to traditional Lao dance.

Samantha is  a McConnell Foundation Fellow chaperon and is excited to take her first trip to Laos with the SAIL program. Her parents came to the U.S. from Laos, and she is looking forward to learning more about where her parents are from.   Samantha has worked at the local college in Redding, CA with the Extended Opportunity Program and Services (EOPS), geared toward assisting disadvantaged and/or minority students. She hopes to take her carry her passion for working with people into opportunity for working with schools and orphanages in Laos. 




Sourinthone is a CLS and UW-Madison scholarship recipient, and was born and raised as a Lao American in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Fall 2016, she will be going into her 5th year pursuing a B.S. at University of Wisconsin - Madison majoring in Industrial Engineering, as well as minoring in both Six Sigma Green Belt and Asian American studies. Since fall of 2015 she has served as the president of the Lao and Cambodian Student Association (LCSA) on campus. Sourinthone visited Thailand when she was 6 years old but has not returned to Southeast Asia since that time. By attending the SAIL program, Sourinthone hopes to learn much more about her Lao culture and heritage, and to break down barriers between generations and bring knowledge back to teach her CSA family as well as her hometown community. One of the reasons for attending SAIL is her grandfather. "When I return," she states, "I want to be able to speak to him on a much deeper level, and read the many stories he has written about his life."

Tacerrah is  a McConnell Foundation Fellow and was born to Lao Thai and Chinese Iu-Mien parents. Her family members,  especially her grandparents, were instrumental in teaching her about her ethnic background by sharing their stories and experiences, taking her to Laotian community events and speaking to her in the languages of Laos. When Tacerrah was six years old, her father joined the United States Air Force and moved the family away. Although it was difficult to keep her Laotian tradition alive, she frequently returns to Shasta County to visit her relatives and friends to stay connected to her Southeast Asian roots. Tacerrah has always longed to further connect with her Lao heritage, so when she learned about the SAIL Program, she was excited for the opportunity. Tacerrah is a current Sacramento State University student majoring in Psychology and intends to pursue a career in Clinical Psychology with a focus on Behavioral Therapy for children. She plans to volunteer at a children's school in Laos to gain insight into cultural differences in various behavioral and social settings. 



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