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Malinda Kay, museum studies, College of Liberal Arts

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With her mom, Phirun, as an alumna, Malinda Kay grew up knowing about RIT. But it wasn’t until she became a student herself that she realized it would be a place to enrich her dreams, just like it did for her mom.

“It was the only college I thought about,” said Kay.

Malinda Kay is a “legacy” student in RIT’s eyes, but also a big part of the future for her family who immigrated to the United States after the Vietnam War. RIT helped launch her mom into a career in social work in Rochester; the Rochester City Scholars program is launching Malinda into her own career in museum studies.

“My family has been such a big support system for me. Because of the Vietnam War, they were Cambodian refugees. They instilled that education is very important, because when they were growing up, they really didn’t get the chance for education,” she said.

Kay took advantage of the educational opportunities participating in the honors program at East High School and taking classes in its Teaching Learning Institute.

“Growing up I wanted to be an educator, I always loved working with children, and then I was always pretty good at history in school. With museums, I found that it had a little bit of everything, some history, and education. It was like I could combine my love for children with history in a children’s museum.”

For the past two years, Kay has been employed at The Strong museum working with its hospitality and exhibit teams—even running the museum’s carousel from time to time.

After graduation, Kay will look into graduate school for museum education or archival work. She observed that her life parallels her parents’ journey from Cambodia. Both took advantage of the opportunities an education could afford them. Being a Rochester City Scholar opened new doors for Kay.

“It goes beyond grateful; I can’t put it into words. For my family, they have a sense of pride from it, to know that their daughter is, I don’t want to say smart enough, but academically well off that she can earn a scholarship.”