Bakery named for Laotian refugee couple funds scholarships for UConn students taking Asian American studies

BouNom bakery scholarship

Hartford bakery owner Khamla Vorasane has started a $6,000 scholarship fund for University of Connecticut (UConn) students taking classes in Asian and Asian American studies.

Honoring her parents: Vorasane, owner of BouNom Bakery in Avon, named the Nom & Boulieng Vorasane Scholarship after her late parents.

  • Vorasane wanted to honor her late parents who immigrated to the U.S. following the Vietnam War. Her father, Bou, was a military man who fought alongside the U.S. in Vietnam. He was arrested, and she, her mother and her four siblings went into hiding.
  • When Bou was released, he made his way to Thailand and arranged for his wife, Nom, and the kids to join him. The family crossed the Mekong River from Laos to Thailand in the middle of the night. After leaving Thailand, Bou and Nom sought asylum in the U.S. in 1980.
  • Bou and Nom moved the family to Abilene, Texas, where they urged their kids to get good educations. Vorasane said scholarships, grants and loans funded her history and political science degrees from Texas Christian University.

Baking for a good cause: Vorasane opened the French bakery, located in Avon, in early 2020 with her sister, and “BouNom” is a combination of their parents’ names, Nom and Boulieng Vorasane.

  • The Nom & Boulieng Vorasane Scholarship is for UConn students studying to be teachers who take classes in Asian and Asian American studies. The scholarship will be administered by UConn’s Asian and Asian American Studies Institute.
  • “If you ask people about Asian American history, all they know is that the Chinese came and built the railroads,” Vorasane told Hartford Courant. “We wanted a broader idea about how Asian Americans were an integral part of the growth of the United States.”
  • Jason Chang, director of the university’s institute, told Hartford Courant that education majors must enroll in classes in the university’s Asian and Asian American Studies program to qualify for the scholarship.
  • Applicants will be judged based on an essay about their vision for contributing to the community through education.
  • Chang said it is the first scholarship offered by the institute that focuses on education rather than research.
  • Vorasane’s $6,000 donation will fund three years’ worth of $2,000 awards. The awards will continue after those three years if enough funds are raised.

Previous philanthropy: Vorasane and her sister, Chan Graham, previously raised $4,000 through their bakery in March.

  • They spent a day raising money for groups fighting anti-Asian discrimination, according to WFSB.
  • “When we saw the news about Atlanta, being Asian American, it really hit home and we said we have to give back, we have to do something to honor the victims, we have to highlight the Asian hate that’s going on,” Vorasane told WFSB.
  • The success of their March effort inspired the scholarship initiative.

Featured Image via WTNH

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