ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) -MVP Arena was host to Russell Sage’s 106th Commencement, congratulating students on their journey to alumni. Nilar Way is the first member of her family to graduate college. As a refugee from Thailand, she plans to use her bachelor’s degree in nursing to give back to her roots, almost 9,000 miles away. Way says being in America gave her a chance to better herself. In Thailand, she says there are not a lot of opportunities for education.

“I came to America when I was nine years old. It was very hard as English as your new language, trying to navigate everything. Education is the key to opening a lot of doors here. It helps to break the cycles that my family is going around and around with,” explained Way.

Way is Karen, an ethnic minority in Thailand, and was born in a refugee camp. While she escaped to America to avoid a genocide, she now says she will return to those same refugee camps during a mission trip. “I can also put into my practice there. Simple stuff like hand hygiene, listening to their heart, measuring their blood pressure,” described Way.

Professors who taught Way commented on her drive in the classroom, excited to see how she will help those around her. “I was very impressed that she was putting her professional plans on hold to go back for a mission trip to her country of origin to work in the refugee camps,” stated Glenda B. Kelman, Chair of Nursing at Russel Sage College.

Being able to graduate was not an easy journey, and Way has some words of advice. “Nothing that you want to achieve that is meaningful will come easy. Sometimes we need to go through storms to have rainbows,” said Way.

Way thanks her family and friends for their continued support of her goals. After the mission trip, Way plans to work at a hospital and eventually become a pediatrician.