In 2020, Hormel Foods launched the Inspired Pathways program, which pays two years of community college tuition for children of Hormel employees and helps their dream of going to college come true. “It’s been a big jumpstart for us,” says Dat Dang, a rising sophomore at Butler Community College and a recent recipient of the Inspired Pathways scholarship. He and his older brother Tien are both beneficiaries of the program, something for which they and their family are extremely grateful.
Seizing the Opportunity
Dat and Tien — who also attends Butler Community College — were both born in Vietnam and are the first in their family to go to college. When they first heard about Inspired Pathways they were immediately excited.
“My dad came home one day and said, ‘You should apply for this. This is your chance to go to college,’” Dat says. This encouragement from their father Truong, who works at Dold Foods, was the push the pair needed to begin the process. Both young men felt more optimistic about the chance to apply and succeed than intimidated.
When asked if he feels any pressure regarding his college journey, Tien says, “Our whole family was excited. My grandma was telling me every day, ‘Stay in school, do good in school.’ I don’t think there’s pressure; it’s more like motivation to do our best.” Dat echoes his brother: “We should always do our best.”
Early in his freshman year, Tien had been majoring in business administration. He enjoyed connecting with his professors, and one in particular left her mark on him…when she won a bet against him.
In high school, I did apply for scholarships and financial aid, but I didn’t meet the criteria. Since Inspired Pathways is connected to my dad’s employment, it was a great opportunity to work toward our futures and make the most of the support we get from Hormel.Tien Dang, Hormel Inspired Pathways scholarship recipient
“My financial accounting teacher was a very good teacher,” he stresses. “One day, she made a bet with me. She said, ‘I bet you’re gonna like financial accounting after this class.’” Tien laughs at the memory. His professor was right, and Tien now eagerly and happily works toward the reward of “making the numbers match.” Similarly, Dat, a computer science major and self-described problem solver, says, “It’s really satisfying when the code works.”
Tien applied for and received the Inspired Pathways scholarship two years ago and Dat followed suit not long after, especially since meeting the criteria of other scholarship programs proved complicated. “In high school, I did apply for scholarships and financial aid, but I didn’t meet the criteria. Since Inspired Pathways is connected to my dad’s employment, it was a great opportunity to work toward our futures and make the most of the support we get from Hormel.”
A Hardworking Family
Truong Dang immigrated to the United States in 1997 and has worked at Dold Foods for 23 years. Truong’s work at Dold was one of two jobs he had when he first immigrated here, but Dat says his dad’s employment with Hormel Foods was really what allowed Truong to make a place for himself — and subsequently, his whole family — in the States. “My dad’s job with Hormel is what allowed us to be here in the first place.”
Dat and Tien agree that Hormel Foods was always something their dad could depend on to help him support his family. They were both quite clear though: their entire family is hardworking. Truong is passionate and grateful for this work and wants to improve every day; if he supports Hormel Foods, he says, Hormel Foods can continue to give back to their employees’ families.
As for Dat and Tien, when they’re not in school, they work weekends as nail technicians. Dat says, “My parents have been very strong role models for me; seeing them have so much determination, to see them work so hard to support us, that’s something that makes me want to give it my all so that when the time comes, I can give back to them.” Tien agrees. “My parents are probably my biggest role models.” In addition to the family’s dedication to both work and school, they also make a point to find connection whenever possible.
Finding and Nurturing Community
Between the family’s work schedules and Dat and Tien’s school year, the Dangs don’t always have much time to spend together (though occasionally, they’ll find time to take a family trip or visit the zoo). Dat says one thing they always make time for, however, is family dinner. “I think that’s really important; you need that connection with each other daily.” In fact, Dat and Tien both appreciate real human-to-human connection. They like unwinding with their family after a long day and they like making connections with their peers at school. Dat says he likes having smaller classes where it feels like people really know each other and he can truly connect with his teachers and the community.
Similarly, Dat and Tien feel like Hormel Foods is really taking care of their own. “My perception of Hormel hasn’t changed,” Dat says. “I’ve always idolized it and my dad’s connection to it. My dad could rely on Hormel to help him support his family.” And when asked how it feels to be able to support his sons through the Inspired Pathways program, Truong has one thing to say: “I’m just so happy.”