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Daphné Vanessa

Shamil Rodriguez



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About This Episode

Phyllis Khao (@phylliskhao) is a frontline worker that has consistently used service to others as a guide in her success. Phyllis does a wonderful job of walking us through her journey as a first-generation college student and what it was like to figure out how to pay for school.

Phyllis had very humble beginnings as a child of former Cambodian refugees but that wasn’t going to stop her from using education as a stepping stone in her success. Even though Phyllis had every reason to only focus on her success and development, she decided to give back to her family and her community. She shares why service was a common theme in her life from helping her parents in the family business to serving in student government and ultimately choosing a career in healthcare helping others.


  • What motivated Phyllis to go to college in the first place;
  • Why Phyllis chose a career in medicine;
  • The challenges of figuring out how to pay for school;
  • How to be of service to others while still paying off your student loans; and
  • Why helping others can go a long way.
  • And much more…


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Phyllis Khao (00:00): Like, like all my friends would know. They were like, oh my goodness, she's always working. If you're not working she's in class or she's in school or whatever. But one thing that I was so passionate about was just like making sure that people that were just like me would have the ability to go to college.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:19): Welcome to the student loan podcast. Here. You'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses and inspiring stories about paying off student loans. We're your hosts, Daphne, Vanessa and Shamil Rodriguez.

Daphné Vanessa (00:38): Hello everyone. And welcome back to the student loan podcast. Today. We are here with a very special guest Phyllis Khao who has a beautiful story about how service and impact led her to where she is today being a frontline worker. And so we would love to share her story with you. And we're so excited for this episode to begin. So with that, Phyllis, the floor is yours. Please share with our audience, your story and how you became successful and where you are today.

Phyllis Khao (01:12): Hi everyone. My name is Phyllis Khao I'm from Los Angeles, California. I was born and raised there. My parents are refugees from Cambodia. They came here in the late fifties. I'm old. Sorry, not fifties. In the late eighties. Yeah. So they were trying to escape communism in Cambodia. So that's what brought them here to America. So they instilled in me just like the importance of education, but you know, all they knew was like, you have to get an education in America in order to succeed. But the problem was was that when they first came to America, they just only with the clothes on their backs. So they didn't know where to begin. So they, they work in sweatshops. Then they started their own business and jewelry and, and restaurants, but still like growing up, we were still considered low income. So going to college was a dream of mine.

Phyllis Khao (02:15): But at the same time I do, like, there was no way I could have money unless I go to college. Like that's what my parents instilled in me. And also I knew like they didn't have the money to send me off to college. I need that. I had to take out student loans because I have two other siblings and we're very close in age. My older sister's like a year older than me and my little sister is two years younger than me. So of course it's not going to get that money to go around. Yeah. So I like, all I knew was that some, some way somehow I have to find the money aside from just, you know, taking out all those loans because we all know like the amount of loans you have to take for college will be the amount for a house.

Phyllis Khao (03:03): And actually, I, I have I got a bachelor's in communication at the university of California Riverside. And after college, I actually was interested in international business. So I have a master of international business. So I taught English in China for two years. And I got into, after that, I moved over to the east coast because I wanted to work and, you know, he's my marketing and business degree. So I worked in some nonprofits and I also worked in just like local businesses. I was helping local businesses with marketing their, their shows and like program. It's just like just all across the board, like different things. I just wanted to know, just give back because I remember what it was like to compliment the low-income neighborhood and not having resources. Even though like I did that for a few years, I, I didn't feel like it was so fulfilling.

Phyllis Khao (04:08): So I actually went back to school to get a masters and there, I, but of course the debt adds up, but I tried to, you know, I was a hustler. I will be honest. I, I quit like my full-time job, but in order to take some extra classes and we'll order to qualify to go to these you know, to get a master's program. So what I did was I did every job imaginable and it was cool back then when task rabbit came out. So I was building creds for people. I was cleaning out their house, cooking dinner, like I was doing anything imaginable, like picking up Starbucks, just so I could make enough money and, and just, you know, live as I'm preparing to take additional classes before I can apply for a master's program in occupational therapy. Now, all of your big, what the heck is occupational therapy?

Phyllis Khao (05:12): Well, it's an amazing career because you get to work with people across the lifespan. You help them regain their life again after like illness or like a disability. So right now I work at Mayo clinic, Arizona, and I do stroke rehab oncology. We have, so basically when I say I do rehab, like, let's say someone has a stroke, right? They lose all function of like, you know, their brain. They might not be able to move one side of their arm. Well, I, I, we teach that. I teach them how to dress themselves. I teach them how to write their name, how to drive again, like all these things. But, you know, I spend my day, like at the hospital, making recommendations, assessing my patients so that they, we, we gain their function and know have them returned to their life or as best as they possibly can.

Phyllis Khao (06:10): And even though now I have a full-time career, I also have a few side kids because I have student loans aside from working at my hospital. I also work at a different hospital where I do intensive rehab patients that, you know, have car accidents, dramatic brain injury, strokes, like anything bad that could possibly happen to a person I do intensive. We have with them. And I do that as like my weekend job. And then I have a fun job too, but I, I was, it involves food, but I can't really tell you about it. It's a secret, but it's a made money so that I can pay back my student loans. You did so many great points. Yeah. Emphasize

Shamil Rodriguez (07:04): You have such an amazing story. So let's rewind. We we've, we've had a lot of folks that are, you know, first generation college students here. And so can you tell us a little bit about what, like the mindset was like, cause I know you had said like, Hey, my parents like just told me, like, in order to like step out of where I'm living now I need to go to school. So could you like just walk civilizations to cause like, that was my similar story and I know we have audience members that also are first generation college students and a lot of guests have been a fresh generation college students. So would you mind just sharing with the audience, what that they just took the thickness a little deeper into like what that was like, what that meant for your, your siblings to like, you know, how has that impacted you guys in the way that you viewed going to college? Right.

Phyllis Khao (07:57): Okay. So, so it, it started all at like a very young age, so my mom spoke really good English, but my dad barely spoke English. So we, we ha I grew up having translator. And actually I grew up being a translator for a lot of my family members from my like aunt grandparents, uncles, like everybody. So at a young age, like I felt like I, I, I felt like I had to grow up faster in order to make sure like my family gets where they need to be. And when you, when you were asking me like how it felt like, it always felt like there was a lot of pressure, you know, like let them down because they like sacrifice so much in order for us to get where we are today. Cause I, I still remember when I was in third grade, my parents opened up a food to go restaurant and starting at that age already, I was helping out in the family business.

Phyllis Khao (09:03): My dad was like the cook and then my mom was, you know, like she was a cashier, but I would help like, you know, scoop the food whenever the PA the clean, the tables. Right. I was already like, oh, I've got to collect money to save for this thing called college. Right. So I remember my sisters, I would put a tip jar tips for going to college [inaudible] so, you know, and then I told myself, I was it's like, you know, like we gotta provide good customer service, good customer service needs more money. Right. You know, like, you know, when you're little, you're just like trying to figure out what is good customer service, you know? And I just remembered, I was like helping run the restaurant. And then also my dad was doing that, but my mom, her and her family ran like a jewelry business.

Phyllis Khao (10:04): And my job was like, in the summer I was the bill collector, you know? So like, yeah. You're like, what? So I so we were in downtown Los Angeles and the jewelry district. So there's different booths. Right. my dad was to go around and I would collect, you know, whatever people owe us. So, you know, and then I would do inventory of like, I'll, I'll count all the stones I'll count. Yeah. It was my job. But like that started out young and that's when I like he dad to start saving money for this college. Right. But then once I became, like for 14, 15 years old, I said, you know, oh, I heard that by this age that you get a part-time job. And I told my parents that, you know, I can continue to work for the family business, but I felt like I needed to learn to work for other people because we've got to figure out how other people run business pets.

Phyllis Khao (11:04): That's the best way to learn, you know? And that's yeah. So they were just like, I guess, but then at the time of, I was in high school at the time and I wanted to know what college courses were like too. And I believe I was like, I'm a 10th grader. And my mom heard that like high schoolers can go to a community college for free right. And take classes for free. So my little sister and my little sister, she's probably an eighth grade at the time we went together, you know, we went to go take a psychology class. I'm sitting in the chair. I can not touch the floor, the youngest person. He was the youngest person in the room. We took it together. And then right after that, because you know, I still couldn't drive yet. We took the bus, we took the public bus to, from school to home, which is probably like a 30 minute ride on the public bus.

Phyllis Khao (12:04): And sometimes I'll take it to my part-time job. I made Robeks movies. It's like similar to it's the competitor for a Jamba juice. So yeah. So I like always took the public bus and actually, you know, just growing up, I actually did not get my own car until like grad school. So I was always taking public transit that's yes. It saves money, you know? So a lot of money. Yeah. But that was like a big thing for me, you know, like learning how to stay at a young age because there's like a set goal. Cause I, I will be honest. I did not know how much college costs. That's what I was going

Daphné Vanessa (12:50): To ask you. When you have a numeric goal or would, you know,

Phyllis Khao (12:54): Saving. I was saving as much as I can. I'm like had no clue. Right. Did you

Daphné Vanessa (13:00): End up saving, like when you started college?

Phyllis Khao (13:05): I actually ended up, it's not that much guys, but it was a lot to me. It was probably like, like $4,000. Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (13:16): Yeah. That's good.

Phyllis Khao (13:19): But yeah, but then actually it was my junior year of high school. I got into this program. It was a bank of America program where it's like, what you do is like, you will apply for it, but you have to have a lot of like volunteer experience. You have to like make a difference as a community and to get like nominated, just to win this like bank of America award slash volunteer offer to volunteer achievement award slash height of like money and internship. So I did that. Like I won that my junior year, so I had an internship actually at the time I thought I wanted to grow up to be a lawyer. Okay. So, yeah. So I thought that I wanted to be a lawyer and they wanted to get me an internship at the boys and girls club to work with like kids.

Phyllis Khao (14:17): And I was like, no, I don't want that. I, I want to work with a law firm because I want to see what it's like, I want that internship. And they said, oh, okay. And then they would decide they talk to some of their investors and they were like, sure, you can. So I was 13, 14. I was like 14, 15, something like that. Junior year. And I was an intern at a law firm and it was nice because like they had to work like for the internship for a month or so, or two months, whereas like 40 hours a week and you paid, you got paid by the hour. And that money went towards like a sculpture call, like a college, you know, like you can do whatever you want with it. But I wa I was thinking college and that, that was such a good experience. I thought I didn't want to be a lawyer, but it was like a big eye-opener into the real world too. I was like,

Daphné Vanessa (15:17): Wait, all they do is sit down and stare at paper. Yeah. Pass.

Phyllis Khao (15:23): Well, actually I had a special experience. It was called it's a law firm dedicated to helping children it's on the Alliance for children's rights. And what's amazing about this law firm. It's like, it helps so many different children. It helps kids get adoption, adoption, guardian ship kids that do not have like special education, like assistance. They also help kids that have been abused and neglected. So like, it was so nice just to like learn from these different people. And they were all so much older than me. And I was like the youngest intern there, but it was just so eye opening and learning about this stuff. And like I said, it was not that exciting, but great organizations doing it to you guys. So so that, that was like, when you know how it all began like this whole, like working for nonprofits, I would say my first.

Shamil Rodriguez (16:30): Yeah, no, that's thank you for sharing that too, because I think it demonstrates at least to me the hustle. Right. A lot of times people kind of just assume that there's like a hustle that comes from like, you know, your story, right. Or like, generally they'll be like, oh, kids for like, you know, kids of immigrants, they just hustle differently about blah. And they just kind of like, say it without like, knowing what that really like, how did that happen though? Right. It doesn't happen by mistake. And I like love that you shared that because it really shows one, you were part of the team, right. Like working in the family business, like just doing whatever was needed, but then like, you need to just do it like with a sad face and a pal, right. Like you were like, Hey, let's do customer service.

Shamil Rodriguez (17:09): Let's get involved. Like, let me think about how I can level this experience up for everyone. Right. And so really appreciate that you share that with us. And I love that you also like tied in like the community service part of it. Cause it seems like there's like a common theme of what I'm hearing is like, you just want to help people as well. Right. Like you just want to like be fulfilled is what I heard before. So it's really amazing. And I hope that people in the audience can hear that. There's like, even though Phyllis didn't understand yet, like how she was going to be paying for school or like what that amount even was at this point, it was like, there's a goal and I'm going to get it. And so I just, you know, I think that's admirable because it, it takes, you were just like, I'm going to get it done right off base. There you, you are so right.

Daphné Vanessa (17:58): Yeah. No, I I'm so impressed with your story and the drive and the hustle. I think that's so going to be inspiring for people. I would love to hear. Now, when you are in college for your multiple degrees, what did your makeup look like of student loans versus hustle money?

Phyllis Khao (18:18): I, I will be honest, the amount that I supposedly brought to college thinking, oh, I'll have enough. It was gone. Like I did. When I first looked at the bill, I was just shocked. That was like that like three, $4,000 on even pay for a single semester for were reds. You know, I was bred for the dorms. Right. I remember like looking at the bill, like for just one, like the master, which is 15 weeks, it was 9,000, you know, it was $9,000 and

Daphné Vanessa (18:55): You're still in the state. Right. You were in staff.

Phyllis Khao (18:57): I was in state like, yeah. So I remember being like, so like, whoa, this is a lot. Right. And then I remembered also looking at just in general, like how much it costs, like my first year too, when it costs like five is high, my graduate. From what I can remember, it was like 20, 23, 20 $4,000 a year, you know, until like at the very end, it was like 36 or something. And I was like, whoa, like that's a lot in four years. The university of health. Yes. And that's why I was like I was very involved in student government because I was really, I got involved with it because one day I, I was talking to, I worked in the dorm, I work in the dormitory and I was talking to one of the RAs and he told me, she was just like, oh yeah, like you can volunteer and be an intern for this government.

Phyllis Khao (20:04): And also get like, you know, like money, you know, like it's not work, study money, but it's money, like just like per hour. And I was like, oh, this is crazy. I, I need money to take it. Right. So I know it sounds crazy. Like I have three core jobs in college. Like it was insane. Like aside from being like an administrative assistant in the residence hall, I also was like an intern slash like chief of staff in the student government. I also was just like an intern at like the assemblyman's office. It was just as a marketing communications intern. So it was just like a lot of things, because I felt like in order to pay for college, I needed the money. And you know, like I knew I couldn't ask my parents, like, just because my dad, like, he has a really hard job.

Phyllis Khao (21:03): He doesn't make that much money. He works 10 hours a day, seven days a week. And he only makes a hundred dollars a day. And like, if I even showed him the bill, what tuition costs, he would have heart attack, you know, like, cause he also has my older sister at the time. So I just knew in my head, like I just put an and that's why, like I could only depend on like Pell grants and you know, federal student loans and then whatever money I may punt and I try to, you know, balance school and try to work. And it was hard, you know, like, and, and I felt like it was harder because like, I, I will be honest. Like I did miss out on a lot of social activities. Cause I felt like I did to not do them because I needed to sleep.

Phyllis Khao (21:51): I need to have energy for work. Right. So I like, like all my friends would know. They were like, oh my goodness, she's always working. If she's not working, she's in class, aren't you in school or whatever. But one thing that I was so passionate about was just like making sure that people that were just like me would have the ability to go to college. So that's why I got involved in student government and started like you know, or student organizing and teaching them about like, you know, what's going on and how like, like how the student, you know, if student tuition increase and loans and stuff like that. So then like we would make trips out all the way from Los Angeles Sacramento. That's like 7, 8, 10 hours just so we can talk to our representatives about like what the students are facing and why they can like, you know, keep on raising like the tuition.

Phyllis Khao (22:50): And we also went to DC once a year with other university yet throughout the U S just to, you know, talk about representative and to educate them that, you know, like a lot of like opportunities, like for low income and for people of color, it's not easy for us to get to college. And when we get there, like we're lost because no, our families don't come from money. Like we can't just enjoy college. Like we have to basically like make it alive, but also make sure we don't doubt on, you know, our money, like our, why we were trying to get there in the first place. So it was just a hustle the whole, the whole, the whole time, completely

Daphné Vanessa (23:36): Different experience right. Than what the movement. So colleges like there, there aren't enough movies about the, the immigrant experience, I guess you could say of going to college. So thank you so much for sharing that. I think that a lot of people can resonate with that, like Chanel said. And it's important to share those stories. I would love to dive into how you manage the competing priorities, right? Because you were still a student and you obviously did well, if you are where you are today, how did you manage both working all of those jobs and attending school?

Phyllis Khao (24:18): Well, I will be honest. It wasn't easy, but I like till this day I just am so organized and I'm like down to them. Like I have to plan out my day down to the minute, just so like, I feel like I'm in control. Like I, and I know myself in order to function, I need a certain amount of hours of sleep. And then sometimes I would just say, you know, if I, I have a test or something, you know, like I, I try not to procrastinate, but it happened, but I had to tell myself, like, you know, what's nice is like, when you do work or like, you know, the school sometimes there's like free time. Like, let's say, you know, like I might do the work, but then, you know, there's some free times. So during my free time, I try to read the texts, you know, like try to do some homework, try to bleak bets, but be flexible because it's it helps when you have like a set schedule for your work and you're letting people know ahead of time, like, this is, this is all I can commit to.

Phyllis Khao (25:26): And always like, I had a hard time getting, but don't try to overextend yourself. You know? Like sometimes I have to be reminded, you know, it's not all about the money. Like the money can come later. Like maybe it's worth it to like, oh, more money in loans than to like kill yourself, you know? Like, so there was times when I was just like, you know what? I can't do it. Like, I, I'm sad. I'm like tired, you know, I'm exhausted. So I'm just gonna not hustle that much, you know, like with some jobs, right. It just maybe how one or two instead of three, try to, you know, study like great. Right. And try to have some fun.

Shamil Rodriguez (26:08): I think what I, what I'm hearing and like, something that I think is really important to highlight there is that, like you said, like, unfortunately you couldn't do all the social stuff. Right. Like, it just, wasn't a part of the game that you were playing. Right. And so, but you didn't let it like set you down. Right. Like you like just knew that that was just a part of the context of how you had to go through school right. In your life. So what about the idea of like like how did you, or why did you want still go to school even though you had that sticker shock? I just wanted to go back to that idea of, of like, when you, when you saw that bill and you were like, you know, oh, boop. You know, this is a clean podcast. But like you were like, oh my gosh w what made you to say, like, all right, well, you know, I just got to finance it,

Phyllis Khao (27:04): So I didn't want to quit. Well, there was multiple reasons why, well, one of it, it was because I knew that, like, in order to do well in America, you needed to have a higher education, just had have a high school degree, and also a big part of it. It's my parents. Like, they sacrifice so much, you know, just, just so that they can make sure that my sister and I have, like, you know, and it's like, I couldn't let them down. You know, even though they, they know that it was expensive and things, whether they couldn't afford it and, you know, sometimes they'll ask me, Hey, do you want some money? Do you need money? I always say no, because I, I don't want them to worry, you know? Cause it's like they've been working their whole lives, you know, just to get my sisters sites where we are today. So I just felt like I can't quit. You know, it's it's for me, it's for them. But it's for all of us. Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. That

Daphné Vanessa (28:07): It's, it's, it's huge. And it's almost an element of service, right. It's like service to your family and the vein, it looks like it's translated for you. Right. In so many other ways, like service talk to us about service.

Phyllis Khao (28:26): Well, so I, I always been really big in volunteering. I also I guess I've been part of service my whole life, but I guess I won't go that far, but I can say, like, I got really big and involved in it in high school. So I'm sure everybody heard of key club or Q1 is clubs. You know, it's a volunteer organization. So I did that in high school and I was vice president and president at a time. So I was like, you know, motivate my own peers, get involved. And we volunteer at like mini festivals and events and, you know, like at nonprofits and stuff like that, just to help the community. And I also was very involved in this volunteering my time, like, like tutoring kids that, you know, that might be struggling in school. So it was just like a lot of like giving back, like starting at an early age. And then in college, I, I was being volunteering. I you're like, whoa, when did I find time for this? I don't know. Like I was part of a sorority. Okay.

Phyllis Khao (29:44): Can you say what you play? Yeah. So I'm part of a story on Sigma Kappa and our philosophy is Alzheimer's association. So we raise a lot of money for, you know, the Alzheimer's research. So I would you know, I try to, I was secretary, but I would still try to find like volunteer opportunities, not just to work with like, you know, old people, the geriatrics, but also like we work with kids with cancer. We have worked with kids with you know, special needs and stuff. Like, I was always looking for opportunities just to get my, my friends or sisters involved too. And I, I loved it because it was like a great time to just like socialize, you know? Cause like I have such a short time to socialize. So I guess like the more barrier. Right. But also doing a good deed.

Phyllis Khao (30:39): So I was like really into that. And then, you know, I will be honest that like after I graduated college, there was a pause for a few years where I didn't volunteer and you know, I was still trying to get used to my career. So it was, it was a little harder. Right. So and also one time I was abroad so that, you know, like we're two years I lived abroad. So teaching English abroad in China, so, and working on my masters in international business. So I went to voluntary, but I still remember how I began again. And that was actually, I decided to, when I was about to go to grad school, I found an organization. This was like my last job kind of in New York city. As a kid, I went through this program, the junior achievement and what junior achievement does, it's like, they teach kids financial literacy, you know, like how to start a budget and how to the stock market, things like that.

Phyllis Khao (31:51): Like basic stuff that, you know, families might not always have time to teach their kids. So I got involved with junior achievement and nurse city. They were running this program where it's like kids will go on a field trip. Right. And they would there'll be different. Little booths will have computers on it, but they were represent different stuff that adults might have to go through. So the kids get assigned an avatar and like a life for the day, let's say they'll have like income a job, you know, like, it'll say if they have kids or spouses and it let's say they'll have that amount of money. Yeah. And then they had to go round to each of the BU like, you know, like one would be like the bank there won't be the water electric, what will be mortgage, you know, all those stuff. And they would learn how to work with a budget. And I was running that program, like teaching the kids, like, you know, like if you spent all your money for the month and on, on, on like buying electronics and toys, instead of buying food for your family and daycare and emergency what's going to happen. Right. So like I was helping brother, right.

Phyllis Khao (33:06): I was running that program and that was like really fun because it was interactive. And I got to know the kids and I also did that for New Jersey. So then after that, I, I applied to go to grad school, you know, for occupational therapy. That's when I moved to Massachusetts and along somewhere along the way I found start new. And I said, oh, like, I, they were just like, we want you to like, you know, volunteer. And I was like, oh, I would be happy to write. And I just thought the program was so amazing, like that you're just giving back to community, but also you get to pay back your student hall. And so I was like, oh, I have to be part of this. And I thought, why not do another community movement? And actually at the, at the time junior achievement of Western mass, like I reached out to them.

Phyllis Khao (34:04): I said, you know I don't know if you guys have the program yet or anything, but I would like to volunteer. Like I just want to help out, like I can do admin, I can run programs. So they were just like, you want to volunteer? Right. And I was like, yeah, yeah. Like, this is my schedule. I can come and, you know, do whatever. Like, so with junior achievements, like they teach kids from like elementary, high school. So they asked me actually that, that, that program that I was running in New York and New Jersey, they wanted to start it in Massachusetts. So I was like their person, like to educate them on how to run it effectively. So that was my volunteer opportunity. I kind of like came up with my volunteer opportunity. I told them like, if that's what you want to do, I can help you with that.

Phyllis Khao (34:57): And also what other programs you have, like, I can help you volunteer. Like I helped them run like this stock market competition. I helped them do this. Like love that. Like we go into the classroom, like as a volunteer. And then you like are given like there's different themes, right. Depending on the grade level. And then you might be teaching the kids about that like financial, you know, subjects. So like, and there's like games and stuff involved. And it's kinda nice. Cause it was like a lesson plan. So I was helping like do that too. Like I was doing like so many random stuff aside from being like a grad student and oh, and also my grad student job, which I was like a grad assistant for the career center. So I just felt, of course, of course I just felt like it was just like a great opportunity for me because I felt like I was helping like young people throughout the lifespan and I really enjoyed it just because I got to like help little kids really learn like the value of the dollar and just like helping them like plan, like for the future.

Phyllis Khao (36:09): Like, like helping, because you know, kids like, like all of us when we're young, we don't understand, you know, like how much our parents are spending and how much they have to sacrifice for us. And, you know, it was, it was hard for like people to take it in because they're young, but it was good to, you know, like to understand. And I think one of the biggest eye-opener for me was I still remembered and I was still shocked beyond belief because when I was running the program in Newark, New Jersey it's I I'm one of the little girl that went through our program, she was 13 years old and pregnant. So yeah. And she, I remember she was going through the program and she, I remember her saying, oh my goodness, what did I get myself into? You know? And I was like, you know, looking at her, I didn't know she was pregnant.

Phyllis Khao (37:06): You know, why would I think a 13 year old was pregnant, but I was just like shocking, which he later on, went up to me and told me she was just like, these are things that I need to do and understand because I'm going to have a child in a few months, but I'm only 13. And I wish I knew this before all of this. And then it was just like, you know, just a shocker. But we were able to like, you know, talk to her and her family and provide some resources so that they can help her. Like it was, you know, it was a big shocker to me, but that was like the first time like a child came up to us, told us how appreciative they were, like, because they knew they really needed, you know, but that was the first time. But, you know, I got under time. That was a low for me. Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (38:00): So you have a lot of transferable skills out of those volunteering opportunities, right. Can you share with the audience what some of those skills were and how it translates to the career that you have today?

Phyllis Khao (38:14): So part of like the job was like, you know, when you're volunteering it's also important to like some skills that I have learned all like a lot of my volunteering experience is number one is recruiting because you have to recruit more volunteers. They keep organization going. Cause they're non-profit, they don't have, they don't have the manpower. Right. So we recruiting. Another thing that I learned is that finding like what is it? It's grant writing. I learned how to do a lot of grant writing so that we can actually get money for the nonprofits I learned. How did I not even mention this? I actually did AmeriCorps AmeriCorps [inaudible]. So America is one of the biggest volunteer organization in the U S run by the federal government. it's where like you live for a year, right in poverty and you volunteer at a nonprofit. No, I did that for a year. And just forgot to mention that.

Daphné Vanessa (39:34): I forgot to mention that I made it into this highly selective government

Phyllis Khao (39:39): Program, but nevermind that anyways. So with AmeriCorps, I, I was a marketing and communications manager,

Shamil Rodriguez (39:53): Humble. That was the most humble volunteer [inaudible]

Phyllis Khao (40:04): And you have to highlight that because it's a huge, it's a huge deal.

Daphné Vanessa (40:09): It's like less people get into AmeriCorps in Harvard.

Phyllis Khao (40:13): It's selective. So congratulations way to just slide that one. Yes. So with America it was like an amazing experience because I mean, I, I, I live low-income my whole life, but this was like a different experience because when you're in AmeriCorps you also like your income so low that you have to apply for food stamps. Right. So I will be honest. I like lived on staff for a whole year, so I was learning how to $150 to spend on one person for one month, like this budgeting food. So I tried to do like $180, you know, like, but I'm lying. I didn't do it for one person. I also fed my fiance, so it was $150 a month. So yeah. So I, I was doing that cause he, he decided to move to New Jersey to do this AmeriCorps experience with me. But so that's why, but back to the skills, sorry guys. No, no, no, that's

Daphné Vanessa (41:37): Real. I think, you know, people don't realize that these programs like AmeriCorps city year, that people are living on food stamps and still giving back. And it just reminds me of the quote, no one is too poor to give and no one is too rich to receive. It's such a great quote because I just, I see it. I see it through you. Right? You lived that experience where you had nothing, even though you had come from very humble beginnings, you hadn't even less nothing. And you still were giving your time to other people is so beautiful. So I love that you can be an example for people that, that really at the core of humanity, we are people and helping each other is what makes us strong. So thank you for sharing that.

Phyllis Khao (42:27): Yes. And actually that experience was amazing because it gave me the opportunity to, you know, use my skills in marketing and communications that help people. So the organization that I was working with was called Casa, which is court appointed special advocates for children. So these are like, now you guys are getting to this new theme. So these children are kids that are in foster care and the court has been court appointed, special advocates, they're volunteers, you recruit them and they get assigned a foster care child. And what they do is they go to the court like, and they advocate for like the kids to have like, you know, special, special education services, medical needs like disability, like equipment and stuff like that. And the problem with that is like, because social workers, they have a caseload of so many kids, you know, like they don't have the time to just like focus on one kid or two kids at a time.

Phyllis Khao (43:31): And this is when the court appointed special advocates. They volunteered their time just to be like an extra hand advocate for these kids and my job in my role with some basically outreach to community outreaching in order to, to recruit these volunteers, you know? And I also agree that right in order to and fundraising just for like the organization. And one thing that I got really good at is I was a freebie. So what I mean by that is like, I was able to get like a lot of like donations of free stuff for like the kids and for the organization in general, like I got like basketball tickets, like concert tickets, like different, different experiences. And I decided I wanted to that because these kids are in foster care. They don't have family. They've been abandoned. Like they need an experience. Like they need some, someone to give them opportunities and, you know, like in happiness.

Phyllis Khao (44:35): So like, I would like write letters. Like I just asked my supervisor at the time. I was like, you know, like is it okay if I do this? And they were like, do whatever you bought, like, okay, I'm going to do it then. And then I would like reach out to the Brooklyn nets. I reached out to JZ and they all like, were like, yeah, here you go. Tickets tickets. Right. And like, it just felt amazing because I still remembered, like I was trying to talk to, it was like a J, D Jay-Z and Beyonce has his organization. It's just like, I just wrote to them, they were going to have a concert. I like months and months from now and play. And I just like asked them, like, I was just like, I'm not asking for any, like, if I could like, just like have one or two tickets and I'll do like a lottery for kids to win.

Phyllis Khao (45:30): Instead, I think they gave us like 20 or 30 tickets or something like that. And yeah, I know they were so nice. And I remember I just had some of the, the advocates, the volunteers go with their kids to these concerts. And I remember I got all these thank you letters. And it was like the best experience ever, because they were just like, we dreamed of doing that, but we can't do that. You know? Like, and I, it just made my day because I felt like that's why I'm volunteering. You know? Like I'm helping the kids. Like, I don't do like direct contact, you know, like volunteering with them, but I was able to get some things in me. No, just because they don't have anybody. And I just, I loved it. Cause it's like, I felt like I was making it like in two ways. Yeah. Phyllis did make a difference.

Daphné Vanessa (46:25): Did you still have those? Thank you letters.

Phyllis Khao (46:29): I will be honest. I don't, because I grew up, you know, like, and I had to like, let some stuff go, but it's, it's the memories, you know, it's just like, yeah. Just like just remembering like, oh my goodness. It was awesome. You know? And I was just like, well, I was, I was glad to do that.

Daphné Vanessa (46:49): I think your story is so inspiring. You you're really like the volunteering queen to [inaudible]. We are so lucky to have met you and cross paths. And I'm so looking forward to seeing how many more lives you impact, you already do it on a regular basis in your everyday job. And as an extra bonus, you're still volunteering. I think so many people can learn from that. Right. And nothing replaces nothing's higher than the feeling that you get from helping people. I know for like, that's just the best feeling I get. And it sounds like you had a similar experience, so thank you for sharing before we wrap up, do you have any parting words of wisdom for people who aspire to be just like you?

Phyllis Khao (47:44): I will say, you know, a little goes a long way. Like, you know, it doesn't really matter. Like it's just time. Like, I mean, we, we all have short amount of time, but it's just like, you know, it's just how you flag for yourself, how you want to spend it, you know? Like you can still spend it with your loved one. You can get them involved. You know, like I do it all the time. I can get my friends, get my significant under yet my family, you know, like, yes, I'm involved. Like, cause then it's just like, it's more, the more the merrier. I

Daphné Vanessa (48:17): Love it. I love it. Thank you, Phyllis. This was such an awesome episode. Chanel. Do you have any words of wisdom before we take off? No, I think this was great. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Phyllis. I love that we've crossed paths like that. And you said your impact in the community from literally the, the moment that you learn, how to work with your family has been consistent all the way through. And I love that you get to bless people with the gift of regaining their ability to live their lives again. And so please keep that up. I look forward to seeing you you know, continue to be involved with start new because like you did, you brought, you brought a new program to a different nonprofit that couldn't have done it otherwise without your support. And so we're grateful for you bringing that energy and that AmeriCorps

Shamil Rodriguez (49:07): Style with it as well,

Daphné Vanessa (49:10): But, but in all seriousness Phyllis you're amazing. And thank you.

Phyllis Khao (49:15): I want to thank you so much, guys.

Daphné Vanessa (49:18): It, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us at the student loan podcast. We will see you again next week.

Speaker 5 (49:25): For more information on today's episode, visit the student loan podcast.com forward slash episode 34. That's the student loan podcast.com forward slash episode 34.

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