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Chico State

Degrees of Hope and Opportunity

a family of 10 siblings pose standing and sitting
(Photo courtesy of the Yang family)

Chico State has been a second home to countless families who’ve shared and cherished the Wildcat experience. For these families—and more than 177,000 alumni—Chico State is not just a university or campus. It is the branches of the family tree. This is one of six profiles of families who are rooted in their Wildcat connection.

Living in Laos in 1983, Xue Yang and his wife, Ong, had their first child, a son, Kong. The following year, the family fled for Thailand to escape the Pathet Lao Communists. Along the way, the family added two more sons to their brood—Sue and Ze.

In spring 1987, sponsored by a great aunt who lived in Seattle, the family of five emigrated to the Northwest—welcoming another son, Dao, to the family there. In summer 1988, they settled down in Oroville, reuniting with relatives and ending their four-year trek to a new life. Xue and Ong eventually had 10 children (seven boys and three girls) and it was Xue’s dream that every one of his children earn college degrees—he saw all but one of his children graduate before he passed away in December 2019.

Over the course of 16 years, each of the 10 siblings graduated from Chico State, spanning nine different majors and four colleges, not to mention two teaching credentials and a pair of graduate degrees—the last of which will be conferred this year, when the youngest Yang, Pa, will earn her master’s in psychology.

Teng, the fifth child and first born in Oroville, said his father’s encouragement to pursue education took root early in the children’s lives.

“My dad instilled in us that education is everything, our future, and an opportunity,” said Teng. “He began preparing us foundationally for education when we were in grade school.”

If not for the support of Ong, however, this foundation likely would have crumbled. As the Yang family matriarch, the siblings said she was instrumental in ensuring the house ran smoothly while the kids took care of business in their respective classrooms.

“Mom was always the one that always made sure we were fed and physically OK,” said sister Chia. “Even though she wasn’t able to help us seek the academic resources we needed, Mom was always there to pray over us and to make sure our physical needs were met.”

Xue practiced what he preached, earning an associate’s degree from Butte Community College in business management in spring 1995. Overcoming a language barrier, he attended classes and studied before working evenings. Though the road to graduation was never without its bumps, the Yang siblings say they know their father’s persistence to pursue higher education came from a loving place.

“Growing up, you feel like the pressure may have been too much, but as you get older, you learn to appreciate it,” said brother Ze. “It’s all about love and wanting the best for us.”