Third-grade cancer survivor’s wish granted: ‘smart’ boards for St. Anthony School

Faith-Maria Nguyen was the first in her class at St. Anthony School in Renton to try out one of two interactive “smart” boards donated by the Promethean company to grant her wish through Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington. Photo: Courtesy Make-a-Wish Alaska and Washington Faith-Maria Nguyen was the first in her class at St. Anthony School in Renton to try out one of two interactive “smart” boards donated by the Promethean company to grant her wish through Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington. Photo: Courtesy Make-a-Wish Alaska and Washington

RENTON – Third-graders at St. Anthony School enthusiastically welcomed a new addition to their classroom — a huge interactive “smart” board, donated to fulfill the wish of classmate Faith-Maria Nguyen.

After going through painful leukemia treatment that started in kindergarten, Faith-Maria was selected earlier this year by Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington to have one epic wish granted.

Did she want to visit Disney World, go on a shopping spree or have a room makeover?

No, the 8-year-old decided, she wanted to share her wish with everyone at her school, who had prayed for her and sent letters when she was in the hospital, Faith-Maria’s mother, Yvonne Nguyen, told those gathered for the September 12 wish “reveal.”

“We are so honored, we are so blessed to have Faith-Maria as our daughter,” Yvonne Nguyen said as she stood with her husband, Peter, their daughter and their son, Christian-Joseph. “She has endured so, so much that not even an adult could endure, I promise.” 


The Nguyen family: Faith-Maria, parents and Yvonne and Peter, and brother Christian-Joseph.

Even though Faith-Maria missed the rest of her kindergarten year, all of first grade and most of second grade, the school kept her enrolled, said Michael Cantu, St. Anthony’s principal.

“She’s a brave little girl. She has been through a lot of suffering,” Cantu said. “We’ve been with her the whole way.”

Cantu remembers walking into the classroom where Faith-Maria should have been attending first grade. There, he saw a desk with her name on it and a teddy bear sitting in the chair.

“That was kept all year long,” Cantu said. “The kids prayed for her every day and never forgot her. And, thanks be to God, she got better.”

The road to remission wasn’t easy, Yvonne Nguyen said. After having a near-fatal reaction during chemotherapy, Faith-Maria had to be switched to a different drug — one that her mother said required seven painful injections each month into Faith-Maria’s leg muscles. She got a blood infection that required other injections. At one point, she wasn’t able to walk or move, Yvonne said.

When Faith-Maria’s immune system was strong enough, she was tutored by a retired teacher from St. Anthony’s, Cantu said. Now she’s back at school with her third-grade class.

On September 12, both of St. Anthony’s third-grade classes got together for the reveal of the touch-screen Promethean board that has taken up residence in Faith-Maria’s classroom. Using their fingers, students wrote and solved math problems on the board. They were excited to see that YouTube is one of the apps available on the board, which a company official described as “a big Android phone.”

But the board also features software geared toward teaching, Cantu said. It gives teachers “a chance to use additional pieces of technology that can wow the learners,” he explained.

Third-graders at St. Anthony School in Renton each got a turn to write and solve a math problem on the new Promethean board in their classroom. Photo: Christopher McCoy/St. Anthony School

Promethean, which has an office in Seattle, was “so inspired” by Faith-Maria’s story that it donated a second board to St. Anthony’s, Cantu said, noting that each board costs about $5,000. The second board has been installed in the art room, where all 420 of St. Anthony’s students will have access to it, he added.

Promethean’s generosity in donating the second board is “beyond what we would ever imagine or expect from your company, so thank you so much from the bottom of our heart,” Yvonne said.

She also thanked Make-A-Wish for granting her daughter’s wish, and thanked everyone at St. Anthony’s for their prayers, “because without your prayers, we wouldn’t make it.”

 

What is Make-A-Wish?

Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington is a nonprofit organization that creates “life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses” that are progressive, degenerative or malignant, explained Jessica Mathews, senior communications and marketing manager.

In 2018, the organization filled wishes for 392 children, but about 500 local children are still waiting for their wishes to come true, Matthews said.

Wishes are granted through monetary and in-kind donations. “We always need more resources and volunteers,” she said.

Learn more about how to refer a child.

Jean Parietti

Jean Parietti is the local news editor for NWCatholic.org and features editor for Northwest Catholic magazine. You can reach her at jean.parietti@seattlearch.org.