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Bobby Chantavong

I thought I was cool, but I was hanging out with the wrong kids,” says Bobby Chantavong. Born in the U.S., 14 year-old Bobby was struggling to fit in. His parents and grandparents were Lao refugees, who had their own issues transitioning to a new life. 

“We’d go out late and just walk around. One day we vandalized a school. I could have easily left, but I was a follower, so I just stayed there."  The boys were caught and placed on probation, and the school filed civil suit for damages. “When Bobby came to Lao Family he was suffering from anxiety attacks,” recalls Meuy Yong Saephan, the Lao Family's Asian Family Outreach Educator. “His family didn’t have any money for a lawyer, didn’t know anything about the legal system, and they spoke very little English.” 

Lao Family intervened with counseling for Bobby and for his grandparents with whom he lived, home visits, independent living skills building, and research and administrative support to help Bobby defend himself in the case. “Lao Family helped me a lot,” says Bobby, now age 19. “I was afraid for my life, and when I saw my grandmother and grandfather crying, I realized I couldn’t do this anymore. The counselors at Lao Family taught me a lot. I learned how to speak differently, dress differently, talk differently and think differently about myself. I learned you need to stop being what other people want you to be and start being what you should be. My whole career in high school changed after that.” Bobby has now graduated and is a student at Merritt College.  He is thinking about becoming a probation officer so he can help other young people stay out of trouble.