SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — While Students Rising Above scholars are well known to be successful in school and beyond, some have hidden talents. Such was the case for Jenny Hoang who, it turns out, is a whiz when it comes to baking.

On a recent morning in the East Bay kitchen she shares with family Hoang whipped up homemade macarons with the precision of a master pastry chef. But it was Hoang’s testing technique for the perfect meringue that really showed her creative, can-do spirit. She demonstrated it by lifting the bowl directly over her head, explaining the process with lots of laughter.

The mixture of powdered sugar and egg whites remained in the bowl. The meringue was done and it was perfect. The cooking tip was delivered with good humor by a young woman who’s been through a lot.

When Hoang was thirteen, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. The treatment was rough and Hoang became her mom’s caretaker. It’s a time in her life that’s still difficult for her to talk about.

“My brother and cousins all helped out,” recalled Hoang. “I generally don’t know how I got through it.”

Even while dying, Hoang’s mom prioritized her daughter’s education, enrolling her in an academic-focused East Bay charter school. The young teen struggled with her studies.

“I remember always getting bad grades at first,” Hoang remembers. “But when I told my mom, I confronted her, I’m like, ‘why did you make me go to a charter school?’ Like, I’m struggling so hard. She would always tell me, like, ‘you know, it’s OK as long as you’re trying your best.'”

After her mom lost her battle with cancer, Hoang focused on school, graduating from high school, then going on to college, fulfilling her mom’s dream. Students Rising Above has helped Hoang too. Now she’s a senior at UC Davis studying psychology and she mines the non-profit’s website for virtual support during the pandemic.

Baking remains her comfort. Her macarons are delicious, as beautiful as a professional bakery might produce. Hoang delights in sharing the delicate treats with friends, family and co-workers.

“[Baking is] a stress reliever,” Hoang explained. “When I’m baking, all I can think about is like the end result. Like, how would it turn out?”

Hoang is also proud of her own academic success. That achievement, along with her beautiful, generous spirit, she attributes to her family — especially her mom.

“I tried to study really,” said Hoang. “It was for her, it was for me, my family and now … I wish she was there to see me.”

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