Kelsang Dolma: Paying it Forward from Minnesota to Yale

The pursuit of higher education is a dream that many Tibetans hold in particularly high regard. And Tibetan women have undoubtedly achieved extraordinary success in exile.

An example of one such individual is Kelsang Dolma, a young Tibetan woman from Minnesota who just graduated this summer from Richfield High School and will be attending Yale University this fall.

​With no shortage of accomplishments, Kelsang was a member of the National Honor Society, Student Government, served as editor of her school’s student literary publication, and was President of a student group that empowers young leaders to serve the global community by advancing the United Nations Millennium Goals. Her proudest accomplishment, however, is establishing a food shelf that helped 120 students during its first two years and raised $4000.

Kelsang credits her family for the sacrifices that allowed her to succeed in school, including working long hours to support her and her siblings. Last year, while at a pool party with her family, Kelsang’s father began drowning and passed out. Unable to perform CPR due to panic, Kelsang recalled a scene from a book she read in high school, The Grapes of Wrath, in which a character pulled the tongue of someone who was choking. Performing this technique on her father, Kelsang was able to open up his airway, which the emergency room doctor later said saved his life.

The first Tibetan from Minnesota to attend Yale, Kelsang gave the commencement speech at her high school graduation and had this to say about her future goals:

“I hope to learn as much as I can at Yale University. For my future, I hope to work in business management or in the environmental field. I am uncertain on what specific profession I will pursue, but I hope to become successful enough to pay it forward to others as I have benefitted.”

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