08/03/19 - Los Angeles Time

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Almost 20 years have passed since Ketwakarn Laitipaya let go of her lifetime dream of graduating from college.

The rent, the bills and her growing family forced both her and her husband to leave community college in Mission Viejo and focus on their restaurant jobs.

But in a different way, Laitipaya, 48, has realized her dream through her daughter Shelby, who will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

On Saturday, Shelby’s achievement was recognized with a $10,000 scholarship from a charitable organization that helps underserved Thai and Thai American youth.

 

“I didn’t make it to university, but Shelby can go to university,” said Laitipaya, who immigrated to Orange County from the small town of Phatthalung in southern Thailand. “I feel so proud,” she said, tears pooling in her eyes.

During a fancy reception at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills, the Angels Wings Foundation awarded 41 scholarships to students who are the pride of their communities. Students nervously tucked in their collared shirts and smoothed their hair as beaming parents enjoyed the ceremony hosted by Thai community dignitaries.

Before the awards ceremony began, everyone stood for the Thai national anthem, with many in the audience singing along.

Porntip Bui Simon, founder and president of the foundation, along with Thai Royal Consul-General Mungkorn Pratoomkaew, presented each student with a certificate and leather portfolio and $5,000 or $10,000 scholarships.

“You want to have a sense that they’re going to pay it forward ... if not with their pockets, then as an example to others,” said Simon, who selected the group out of hundreds of applicants with outstanding academic achievement and concern for the Thai community.

The students hail from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and will attend California community colleges, campuses in the Cal State University and University of California systems, and Ivy League schools, among others. Their intended majors include biology, neuroscience, chemical engineering, and world arts and cultures.

Reading the students’ names aloud, the emcee noted achievements including numerous honor roll citations, service awards and National Merit Scholarships. Some students, like Shelby, will be the first in their families to go to college.

Kevin Sinsommanat grew up in Glendale. His parents, both immigrants from Thailand, worked in a restaurant. Neither spoke English well.

“I had to learn a lot of things by myself,” Sinsommanat said. “If I had a math question or reading [trouble] ... I would have to look it up online or ask the teacher or figure it out.”

Sinsommanat is already enrolled in a summer program at UC Berkeley, where he plans to study business administration. Simon hopes the scholarship program, now in its third year, will foster a sense of ethnic pride and community among young Thai students.

“I know exactly where these kids are,” said Simon, a Thai immigrant herself alumnus of Pepperdine University and a former Miss Universe.

The one-time scholarships will support students attending community colleges and four-year colleges or universities. Recipients both demonstrated financial need and wrote an application essay about the significance of their Thai heritage.

“Heart and ambition” is how Simon described the selection criteria.

Shelby Laitipaya has plenty of both. She said she cherishes having grown up in a house with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, who spoke mainly Thai. She repeatedly expressed gratitude to her parents for their hard work, to MIT for admitting her, and to Simon for the much-needed financial aid as she moves across the country.

She intends to major in brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and go on to medical school.

Shelby and her family just got back from visiting Thailand. They celebrated her college admission achievement with her grandparents, who were quick to note that she will attend the same university as the late king’s daughter. And to have a Thai celebrity like Simon help make it possible?

“They are so proud and so excited,” Shelby said.

 

05/02/14 - CASA Magazine

05/02/14 - CASA Magazine

Angels Wings Foundation is proud to support the Campaign for Student Success Foundation created for Santa Barbara City College. Bui Simon, a resident of Santa Barbara and President of Angels Wings Foundation stands amongst a prestigious group dedicated to helping the foundation support its students through book grants, scholarships, internships, tutoring and childcare for single parents. SBCC is the number one community college in the country.

07/20/13 - Thai Rath

07/20/13 - Thai Rath

Ampornpim Watcharaphai, Director General ELGA (Thailand)and Yaoanong Chanawong, General Manager of LA MER presented a cheque in the amount of Baht 700,000.- to Pornthip Nakhirankanok Simon, President of Angel Wings Foundation to help the children under The Angels Wings Development Project at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel recently.

05/23/12 - Montecito Journal

05/23/12 - Montecito Journal

I am so proud and honored to be a part of the Dream Foundation, an organization that has been touching lives and providing peace, comfort and compassion to so many lives. This year we raised $50,000 for the Dream Foundation’s Flower Empower program, which is a volunteer driven program that delivers hope and compassion-in the form of fresh bouquets of flowers- to those facing illness, loss or recovery. This is just one aspect of the many wishes that are fulfilled on a daily basis through the Dream Foundation, they truly are proof of compassion and humanity at its best.

10/24/12 - Montecito Journal

10/24/12 - Montecito Journal

“It is a unique honor and privilege to witness the profound work of Dream Foundation,” says event host and gala co-chair, Bui Simon. “Knowing we are all helping delicate patients and families through the most trying times of their lives by bringing a smile to their faces is both miraculous and inspiring. Celebration of Dreams represents the invaluable love and support of Dream Foundation’s mission by our community. Without our generous supporters, Dream Foundation would not be able to serve the many deserving recipients the way they do.”

07/10/11 – Thai Rath

07/10/11 – Thai Rath

Angels Wings Foundation International recently awarded five student recipients of “The Angels Wings Foundation Rural Teaching Scholarship” in the Embassy Room at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. Dr. Jeerakiat Apibunyopas, Senior Executive Director, ASDECON Corporation Co., Ltd., H.E. Somjai Suwansupana, Mayor of Phuket, and Wiwan Kannasutra, Managing Director, MAXIMAGE Co., Ltd. were on hand to witness the contract-signing. The scholarship entitles the students, all of whom are from Phuket, to funds including housing for the entire five-year Bachelor Degree curriculum in Education at various reputable universities in Thailand after which they will all return to Phuket to teach.

08/30/10 - Angels Wings Foundation Returns to 87th Thai Border Police’s School in Chiang Rai

08/30/10 - Angels Wings Foundation Returns to 87th Thai Border Police’s School in Chiang Rai

Bui Simon, founder of Angels Wings Foundation International, flew to Chiang Rai to revisit and make further donations to the 87th Thai Border Patrol Police’s School in Chiang Rai.
The school that is governed by the Royal Thai Police started out in 1979 as just land with a few wooden bungalows. In 2002, Angels Wings reached out and constructed proper infrastructure for the school including a cafeteria and housing for the teachers. During this trip Angels Wings presented donations including three computers for grades 5 & 6 students who need to be computer literate in order to qualify for middle school and high school; essential educational supplies and a cash donation of Baht 50,000.

08/01/10 - Bangkok Post

08/01/10 - Bangkok Post

One Scholar at a Time

Porntip Bui Nakhirunkanok Simon makes a difference through her support of education.

When she announced that she loved children on the way to winning the Miss Thailand crown, 1988 Miss Universe Porntip Nakhirunkanok Simon wasn’t joking. Recently back in Thailand to visit her projects for children, she checked in as usual at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.

08/01/10 - Sriraj Hospital Visit

 08/01/10 - Sriraj Hospital Visit

Angels Wings Founder Bui Simon and her family visited Siriraj hospital to write get well messages to His Majesty the King during her recent trip to Thailand.

Angels Wings Founder, Bui Simon, cited how much she misses Thailand and that it is her key intention to take her family to express their well wishes to His Majesty the King. She is very proud to be a citizen of the nation under his royal patronage and that royalty and heritage is what makes Thailand the most extraordinary country in the world. God Bless the King.

09/28/08 - Matichon Daily Newspaper

 09/28/08 - Matichon Daily Newspaper

Bui Makes Another Contribution by Launching the Rural Teaching Scholarship

Mrs. Porntip Nakhirunkanok Simon, founder of Angels Wings Foundation International, has taken another impressive step in her philanthropic efforts on behalf of Thailand by announcing the launch of the “Creating Hometown Teachers” scholarship program, The former Miss Universe, who is affectionately known as “Bui.” conceived of this exciting new initiative as a means of expanding educational opportunities for underprivileged children. The program will increase the number of teachers in rural areas, raising educational standards in some of the poorest and most underserved regions of our nation.

09/07/08 - Daily News

 09/07/08 - Daily News

“Angel Bui” Donated 40 Million to Southern Students Learning to Become Teachers”
Former Miss Universe Bui Porntip Nakhirunkanok Simon continues to win the love and affection of Thai people and Thai children. On her more recent trip from the US to Thailand, she worked on her mission to help Thai children by launching the project “Creating Teachers in Hometown Scholarship.”

09/01/08 - Banmuang Newspaper

 09/01/08 - Banmuang Newspaper

“Angel Bui” Donated 40 Million to Southern Students Learning to Become Teachers

Former Miss Universe Bui Porntip Nakhirunkanok Simon continues to win the love and affection of Thai people and Thai children. On her more recent trip from the US to Thailand, she worked on her mission to help Thai children by launching the project “Creating Teachers in Hometown Scholarship.”