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Class of 2012: Travis Vuong finishes up well-rounded high school career

Travis Vuong (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe

This is the final story in a four-part series profiling 2012 graduates at Worthington High school.

WORTHINGTON -- As he contemplated a future beyond the halls and walls of Worthington High School, Travis Vuong faced a bit of a quandary.

Travis has a deep interest in music, playing multiple instruments and even beginning to dabble in musical composition. Music is where his heart is.

But when it comes to a career, Travis is more pragmatic. His head tells him that there's a better future for him in computer science.

For the moment, the head is winning out, and a career working with computers is on the horizon.

"I've been accepted at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering," he said. "They gave me a scholarship for working a lot and being involved here at school, renewable each year, as long as I graduate in four years. My heart's been set on the U of M, although I swayed toward Mankato, but I heard their computers weren't as good there. So it's go big or go home, although the debt's not going to be nice to look at."

The son of An and Sai Vuong, natives of Vietnam and Laos, Travis is first-generation American, born and raised in Worthington along with one sister, four years older.

"So I came into high school when she left," he said.

High school has been a balancing act for Vuong, who has found niches for athletics and music while keeping up his grade point average, taking college courses and holding down a job. He is finishing out his tenure on the boys tennis team with hopes of advancing to higher competition.

"I played a little when I was a kid, and when I got older I wanted to try to play the game like it's actually meant to be played. It's actually fun once I got the hang of it," he said, adding that he learned a lot working with coach Mike Marquardt. "I don't think there's a better coach out there. We've done fairly well this year. Hopefully we'll make it to state."

Musically, Travis is involved in both band and choir, filling up two time slots in his schedule plus extra hours with musical ensembles and related endeavors. In the band, he plays the clarinet, and in choir he has a spot in the bass/baritone section, although he's stretched his range to tenor.

"For the national anthem, I'm a tenor," he said. "It was sort of a joke to learn that, but I tried it out, and it worked out, although a little bit of a jump."

But Travis hasn't been satisfied with just stretching his voice range. He's also stretched his musical capabilities by attempting to learn the violin, piano and guitar and would like to give the saxophone a try, too, if he could find an instrument to play.

"The saxophone was my first choice" in an instrument, he noted, "but I picked the clarinet because they ran out of saxophones."

In addition to the main musical groups, Travis has also been a member of the Trojan Express and Vox music ensembles, was involved in the annual Madrigal Dinner and served as a sound engineer for the school's musical production.

In his final semester at WHS, Travis chose to take an advanced placement music theory class that he counts among the favorites of his school career, as it's given him a foundation to try his hand at music composition.

"It's a small class," he said. "Sometimes it might not seem like we're learning much, but there's a lot going on behind the scenes. There are only six people in the class, so we can definitely have more fun, and you can talk to people more directly than if it were a class with 20 in it. The classical way of writing is very strict, you follow set rules. In modern writing, just about everything goes, but I haven't quite learned how to do that yet."

Travis is a fan of all genres of music -- well, almost all.

"I like a lot of music," he said. "I don't think there's anything I've ever disliked. Well, I guess that's a lie. I've never been a big fan of country, but there are exceptions to that rule."

During his senior year, Travis has divided his time between WHS and Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus, taking advantage of the post-secondary education option there to get some computer classes under his belt.

"I've taken one or two at the college, but the rest here (WHS) so I can stay close to my friends," he explained. "The (college) classes were online classes, so they started out easy and got gradually harder. It got to the point where I couldn't really understand without some help from the teacher, got a little bit over my head. I talked to the teacher and got things sorted out."

Throughout his high school career, Travis has also held down a job at Hardees.

"I've really focused on working, worked a lot to help support my family, to support myself," he said. "I wanted to make enough money to pay for myself and my activities and not put that on my parents."

In order to take full advantage of his last couple weeks of school, Travis recently tendered his resignation at the fast-food restaurant, but he will start a new job -- more than full-time -- shortly.

"I'm going to go to work for the summer with my dad at Rosenboom Machine & Tool in Sheldon, Iowa," he said. "It's going to be 57 hours a week. They work 10½ hours a day, Monday through Friday and an extra five hours on Saturday. I'm trying to pick up my weight."

Travis anticipates that working for a short time in a blue-collar field will earn a nice nest egg to see him through the first year of college and also give additional incentive to do well in his studies. But it will leave little time for hanging out with his friends or playing video games -- his favorite pastime.

"I would also like to get some sleep," he said with a laugh. "I've never had a good night's sleep in a month or so. I end up staying up to do a few things. I tend to do stuff a little last-minute, and that takes sleep out of my life. Then I'm afraid of oversleeping, so I never get into a sleep pattern."

As graduation parties get into full swing, Travis has also been busy -- with the help of his mother -- making egg rolls for a few of his friends' celebrations.

"We make them for friends and family," he said. "I got started doing that my freshman year, when we were trying to figure out what to do (to raise money) for Toys for Tykes. Somebody suggested making egg rolls, and I wanted to learn how, so I've been doing it ever since. I can also make chicken-fried rice, curry, seasoned meats and throw it in with rice. Everything goes with rice if you're Asian.

"Making the egg rolls is kind of fun," he added. "It's a challenge to see how well, how consistent, you can make them."

As of today, Travis will have his own diploma in hand, and he'll be making the rounds of more graduation parties and gobbling up the cream cheese mints, his personal favorite party fare. His own graduation bash will likely be in early June, due to family conflicts.

Although he decided to pursue a career in computers, Travis hopes that he will be able to incorporate his love for music into his future plans.

"In 10 years, I hope I'll have a stable job, maybe as an in-house computer technician, traveling around, or maybe making computer parts," he predicted. "And if I can write well enough, write decent music, maybe I can submit that and have it be used in video games, movies. I'd really like to be a renowned composer, but that's really big stretch."

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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