Overcoming the Odds: Mony Nop '04

Mony Nop '04 (right with microphone) works with students at his foundation. Despite facing tremendous adversity as a child in a Cambodian labor camp, refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines, then poverty and abuse in the United States, Mony Nop ’04 has founded two nonprofits and forged a successful career as a police officer and real estate agent.

A whirlwind of ideas and stories, Nop worked for 16 years as a police officer in Livermore, finishing his BS in business management at night while working fulltime and raising two boys as a single father. After earning his degree from Saint Mary’s, he started his own real estate company, which donates a percentage of its earnings to charity.

“I can’t thank Saint Mary’s enough. It opened a whole new door for me. Saint Mary’s allowed me to find my own truth,” said Nop, who explained that before SMC, he had read only six books, since he owned none growing up. “I love reading now and read all the time.”

In 2013, Nop founded the Mony Nop Foundation, inspired by the suffering in his childhood and his work with youth, families, and school groups as a police officer. The foundation aims to foster a lifelong commitment to community service and offers scholarships to middle- and high-school students for enrichment programs in visual and performing arts, athletics, and leadership.

“I always wanted to give back because there is no way another child should suffer the way I did in order to be successful,” said Nop, who escaped the Khmer Rouge at age 6 and regularly ate bugs and animals to survive. “It comes down to helping people live their lives the way they need to. We open doors, change lives, empower youth, and grow leaders.”

Nop also co-founded the Tri Valley Nonprofit Alliance, which provides resources, trainings, and collaboration to more than 200 nonprofit organizations.