Nothing can hold back Aye Naing

Recipe for success

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Photo Credit: Danny Fulgencio

“Now that I am a senior, I know how to be respectful and not talk back.” — Aye NaingAye Naing had to work hard to communicate clearly when she was younger. Now, she lights up a room. Her expressive eyes and energetic hands emphasize every point. Her hope for the future is infectious.

Aye is a senior at Bryan Adams High School and Multiple Careers Magnet Center, a school for students with learning differences in East Dallas. The magnet center opened in 1978 as a school for physically disabled children in Dallas ISD. Today, it helps prepare secondary students for life after high school through study clusters such as business technology, construction technology and culinary arts. The school’s clubs and activities allow students to develop leadership skills in ways they may not be able to do at a traditional school.

Aye is in the culinary arts cluster, where she learns knife safety, chopping, measuring, following a recipe and creating a menu. The students operate a restaurant every Thursday for the staff. They create a menu and cook, serve and clean up after lunch. Professional chefs play the role of teacher as they guide the students to bring the eatery to life.

Students attend the magnet center three hours a day and spend the rest of the time at their home schools. Aye makes the most of her time. Last year, she worked at Subway as a part of the school’s internship program.

Though she is flourishing now, life wasn’t without challenges. Aye’s family is from Burma, and when she was younger she spoke so fast that others had difficulty understanding her. She still speaks quickly, but she has worked hard to make herself understood.

During her freshman year, she acted tough and was often disrespectful to teachers and classmates. Over the years, she matured into the leader she is today.

Aye is now on the student council at the magnet center. Principal Lynn Smith says other students watch Aye to see how she handles herself. “She is a rock star,” Smith says.

Though she excels in the kitchen, Aye has many other talents. She writes her own songs and plays guitar, performing in the magnet center’s talent show. At Bryan Adams, she is a mentor for other special-needs students and is a member of the cheerleading squad, which recruited her from a hip-hop class.

Through cheer, she has helped with youth clinics, teaching kids all they need to know to be great cheerleaders. “The first time I was so nervous,” Aye says. The leadership roles are having an impact.

“Now that I am a senior, I know how to be respectful and not talk back,” she says.

After high school, Aye hopes to go to culinary school and own a restaurant, a classy place where people dress up. She wants to design the restaurant and run the front of the house.

She has big dreams for herself, but Aye always has her mind on others and gives advice to younger students. “Who are you looking to?” she asks them, knowing the importance of finding good mentors.  She knows students like her will be made fun of by small-minded peers, but she heeds her own advice: “Don’t worry, and don’t listen to them.” n

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