Struthers Class of 2018 leaves its mark on school

By Bob Jackson


You’d never know it from talking to him, but Ethan Vo readily admits that, at times, he’s slow to pick up on things.

Case in point – when his parents tried to teach him at an early age to be thankful for everything he had and to take nothing for granted.

“It took me a while to catch on to that,” he said. “But I finally got it.”

The turning point, the 17-year-old said, was when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.

“It really opened my eyes about what I wanted in my future, and to take nothing for granted,” he said.

Ethan was one of six valedictorians who graduated Sunday from Struthers High School. He said the lessons learned from his upbringing, as well as those learned at Struthers High, will forever shape his future.

His father, Thanh Vo, and his mother, Phu Nguyen, each immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when they were teenagers. They met as college students and eventually got married. He said stories about his parents’ upbringings in Vietnam really hit home.

“They didn’t exactly have that much, so they taught me very early about how important hard work is, and to be grateful for what you have,” he said. “My mom basically grew up eating rice and soy sauce every day.”

While his mom has been cancer-free for nearly two years, Vo said seeing the care she received during her cancer treatments is what influenced him to pursue a career in medicine. He’ll enter Youngstown State University’s pre-med program in the fall, and wants to eventually become an oncologist, working for the underprivileged.

“I really do value serving the underserved and helping people who really need it,” he said.

He said his years at Struthers High have instilled in him a deep sense of community pride.

Roger Day, high school principal, said that’s a common thread among Struthers graduates. The Class of 2018, he said, has distinguished itself both academically and athletically, as well as with its civil involvement.

“They won’t be forgotten anytime soon,” he said. “They have really left their mark.”

Anthony Iarussi, also a valedictorian, said the diversity of people at Struthers is what he enjoyed most about his years as a student there.

“You have people from all sorts of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, all sorts of economic situations,” he said. “But we’re all very close.”

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