“‘When she was a teenager, Isabelle Thuy Pelaud would ride around her small village in the hills of southeastern France. But her moped could only take her so far. “I knew I wanted to get past those mountains,” she remembers. Daughter of a French father and Vietnamese mother, she always felt like an outsider; that didn’t change when she landed in California at age 19, eventually working for a South Asian family who ran a deli in Milpitas.
One day, Pelaud recalls, the owner’s daughter came home from her studies at UC Davis. Pelaud had never heard of UC Davis, and she was interested. “Can I also go there?” she asked. Her employer overheard and laughed, “Isabelle, UCs are not for you. Not everyone can attend.'”