First Cambodian American Woman Swears in as School Committee

Susie Chhuon– the first Cambodian American swears in as School Committee member on Wednesday night at Lowell City Hall. With the attendance of her family, friends, and supporters, the room is filled with energy and excitement.  Chhuon is replacing Andrea Descoteaux who resigned from the position due to illness since last week. Chhuon will represent district #3, covering the South Lowell and Belvidere neighborhoods.

Susie Chhuon swears in by Justice P.

Chhuon said, “it’s my honor to serve in this delicate situation. I wish Mr. Descoteaux well and I thank him for his service.” In the last election in November, Chhuon ran a strong campaign in which she won South Lowell but came short 146 votes in the Belvidere neighborhood. Chhuon vowed that she will work hard to serve her district and looks forward to work with all fellow school committee members. “As an educator for twenty-one years, I know from first-hand experience what the parents and students’ needs are, and I’ll be able to take that perspective to serve as a school committee,” said Chhuon.

2022-2023 Lowell School Committee. Front row from L-R: Jackie Dorothy, Sokhary Chau, Susie Chhuon; Back-row from L-R: Dominik Lay, Connie Martin, Stacy Thomson, and Eileen DelRossi.

Chhuon came to America as a child refugee. Having grown up as a child translator for her mom during her school years, she understands the struggles that many immigrant families face in schools. Lowell is one of the most diverse public schools in the Commonwealth where 65 different languages are spoken by the students. Among them, the highest foreign speaking students are Spanish, about 1500 students, followed by 1200 Khmer speaking students and 900 Brazilian speaking students. Now as a mother of two grown children, Chhuon said “My passion is to help others who are like me, trying to ensure their children have a good and equitable access to quality education.”

Chhuon speaks after being sworn in as School Committee.

At the end of the Khmer rouge reign in 1979, Chhuon was born in the Khao I Dang refugee camp. During the genocide, she lost two siblings and her father who served in the Cambodian army. Chhuon came to the United States in 1985 with her mother, one older brother, one older sister, her brother-in-law and their two children. She started kindergarten in Houston, Texas before her family moved to Lowell, Massachusetts two years later. Chhuon grew up in Lowell, went to public school, married, and had two children who are now adults. “Being someone who came from a war-torn country, Lowell has given me a chance to start a new life, I’m honored for this opportunity to give back and serve my community,” said Chhuon.