Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories profiling East Texas high school graduates.
Rothnica Marin has a wealth of experiences, and she’s just now about to get her high school diploma.
The Hallsville senior immigrated with her family from Cambodia two years ago. She speaks five languages including her native Khmer.
“I’ve been learning English since the third grade until now,” she said. “My mom had me take some Chinese classes, but it was a few years ago. I can say a few basics, reading and stuff like that, and now I’m learning Korean because that’s the language I want to learn.”
And while she’s had the typical teenager job or two — she was a waitress briefly for a Japanese restaurant in Longview — she’s also tried breaking into the entrepreneurial world of online retail.
“My dad was not supportive of me starting it because he said it was too risky, but my mom gave me a try,” Marin said about getting permission to try her hand at online retail sales. “She didn’t put a block in front of me.”
Her mom, Sophorn “Ana” Nil, is a familiar face to customers of Shipley Do-Nuts in Longview, where she has worked practically since the family arrived in East Texas in June 2017.
Marin and her family — mom, dad, younger brother and sister — immigrated to the U.S. in the footsteps of Marin’s grandfather, who had applied for Marin’s family to come to the United States since he immigrated from Cambodia in 2001.
“We came here in 2017 on June 1, and we got to California where my grandpa lives,” Marin said, “and he has a sister here in Texas who runs Shipley Do-Nuts here.”
Marin overcame some fears when she arrived at Hallsville High School two years ago.
“At first, I was kind of scared of racism here because, I mean, in Texas there’s not many people of my kind. There’s a lot more of other ethnicities and stuff like that, so I was kind of scared of that,” she said, “but it turns out it was OK, and I wasn’t focusing on that. I was focusing on education, because that’s the main reason we came here was for education.”
Her interest in obtaining a trademark for entrepreneurship led her to experience Amazon, eBay, Shopify and other companies. It also led her to Hallsville High School teacher Mark Dimmitt.
“That’s one of the reasons she met me was she trying to get a trademark,” Dimmitt said, describing Marin as a remarkable student.
Marin is awaiting results of her Army TAPAS test to see whether she can join the military, which would be key in funding her education. Otherwise, she plans to attend Tyler Junior College and later the University of Texas to major in business.
“I’m not sure what I want to do for sure, but I’m sure it’s going to involve money and business,” Marin said. “I want to do something for my own and run a business. ... I just know that I’m not going to be a doctor, but I don’t know what I’m going to do.”