For Natasha Sankgasoot, food connects her to family — and her future

Written by
Stephen Mease

Date
January 6, 2022

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1-06_float.jpgIf you live in the Brattleboro area and have ever had a craving for authentic Thai food, you’ve probably visited the Thai Hut, and there’s a good chance you’ve met Natasha Sankgasoot. She’s the friendly young woman who often rings up customers and gives them their change.

Natasha grew up in the business that her mother started and has worked hard to develop. Now 17 and a senior at Brattleboro Union High School, Natasha still works there on the weekends, helping as a prep-cook, taking and delivering orders, answering customer questions, and cleaning up at the end of the day. 

Holly Hammond, Natasha’s VSAC counselor, speaks fondly of Natasha’s role in nourishing her community. “This fall, I saw her working at a large Brattleboro outdoor festival as she greeted a long line of customers with warmth and kindness, even under a great deal of pressure. Natasha is a kind, caring, hard-working person.” 

Holly has been working with Natasha for the last three years through VSAC’s Talent Search program, providing her with mentoring and support to help her prepare for and apply to college. At Holly’s suggestion, Natasha turned her restaurant experience into the foundation of her college essay, which Natasha hopes will help her go to her dream school: New York University.

Natasha was born in the United States but has maintained close ties to her family’s home country. Her mom, who grew up in Thailand but went to high school and college in Florida, speaks Thai with her at home, and they typically visit family in Thailand every summer (though COVID-19 hasn’t made that possible the last couple of years). 

“When we go to Thailand, we do a lot of things together as a family,” Natasha says, as she describes the ways in which the culture honors family togetherness and respect. “When we talk, we have different pronouns for elders,” she explains. “And we always have dinner as a family.”

Not surprisingly, food has always been an important way for Natasha and her mother to connect to their traditions. For Natasha, food is also a promising avenue for her future — though in a slightly different way than it was for her mom. 

“I always wanted to do something with food, but I didn’t like cooking,” Natasha says. After taking a nutrition class at school, she started thinking about a career as a health and wellness coach.

“We learned that whatever you eat creates you,” she says, a concept that inspired her — and has already led her to inspire others. The semester she took the class, she helped her mother lose weight and develop healthier habits. The two focused on balanced eating, eliminated junk food, and started going to the gym together. 

Natasha says she wants to help people fight illness and gain better health through good nutrition, and once again, her inspiration starts close to home. “My grandmother has diabetes, and I’d like to help her, too,” she says.

Jen Course, one of Natasha’s teachers, has noted her commitment to family and her strong work ethic. “Natasha is devoted to her family, and she works so hard on her academics in order to reach her goals and have a bright future.”

When it comes to colleges, Natasha, who is currently studying Chinese, is especially excited about NYU’s campus in Shanghai and the chance to study abroad. “I want an opportunity to have a new experience outside of Vermont. And I like being in the city.”

While Natasha was immediately “sold” on NYU, she acknowledges that “it’s always good to have a backup plan,” and says Holly has helped her identify some additional schools that have a nutrition and wellness major. Besides NYU, she’ll also apply to Simmons College in Massachusetts and Northern Vermont University in Johnson.

Natasha also appreciated Holly’s assistance in completing her college application. “One of the most helpful parts of working with Holly was getting through the Common App. At first, it was a little confusing. Holly helped me understand it: what to fill out and where to put my schools in. We sat together and worked on it during our weekly meetings.”

In college, Natasha is looking forward to studying more about nutrition and exploring the “new world” that college will bring. “College will definitely be different from high school,” she predicts. She’s excited about how this next chapter will fuel her curiosity.

“I like learning new things,” she says. “You never know what else you could be interested in. I never knew I was interested in nutrition until I took that class.”

For information on college and career planning and help with financial aid, go to www.vsac.org/FAFSAfirst and check out our online workshops and events. For an update on how we can help with the impact of Covid-19, click here. You can also give us a call at 800-642-3177, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and online at info@vsac.org.

This story is produced by Vermont Student Assistance Corp., created by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 as a public nonprofit agency, to advocate for Vermont students and their families to ensure that they achieve their education goals. Our vision is to create opportunities for all Vermont students, but particularly for those—of any age—who believe that the doors to higher education are closed to them. We begin by helping families save for education with Vermont’s state-sponsored 529 savings program. To help Vermonters plan and pay for college or career training, our counselors work with students in nearly every Vermont middle school and high school, and again as adults. Our grant and scholarship programs attract national recognition, and our loan programs and loan forgiveness programs are saving Vermont families thousands of dollars in interest. For more about VSAC initiatives, go to vsac.org.