Simpson Graduate Changes Life Course to Finish Degree

For Immediate Release


REDDING, Calif. - Walking across the Simpson University stage to receive his diploma April 28 was much more than a celebration of academic achievement for 37-year-old Zong Jason Yang.

It also marked a significant milestone in a life that used to be headed toward some dark places.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d return to college,” said Yang, who earned a bachelor of arts in pastoral studies. “My mom is full of joy. No more worries for my parents. It brings me joy because I know I’m not hurting them anymore.”

Yang was among more than 250 graduates at Simpson University’s spring commencement ceremony, including 132 from the School of Traditional Undergraduate Studies, 76 from the School of Adult Studies, and 41 graduate students.

Born in Laos, Yang and his family—which includes five girls and eight boys—immigrated to Thailand and later to America when he was 7. It didn’t take long for him to experience racial tension at school.

“I learned early on that I needed to defend myself,” he said. “I was on the wrong path.”

Yang started living a double life—selling drugs and bringing guns to school but being a leader in the church his family attended in Marysville.

“I was living in a world where nothing mattered,” he said, noting that he got arrested several times. “I was involved with people I couldn’t trust and always had to be one step ahead to protect myself. I became good at living a double life.”

After graduating from high school, he attended Chico State University for three years but quit because he was getting into too much trouble.

In 2002, he stopped attending church and focused on his drug trade. “I was so immersed in it that I accepted that this was my life,” he said.

Six years later, Yang was laid off from a job and living off his savings. “I felt empty,” he said. His mom told him about a Christian conference, and, knowing he needed a change, Yang went. Convicted by the message, he did an about-face.

“I changed my environment immediately,” Yang said. “I felt like God was calling me to pursue him.”

A conversation with a pastor led him to apply to Simpson University. None of his Chico State credits transferred, so he had to start over. Undeterred, Yang tackled financial and personal obstacles to spend four years at Simpson, where he was an older student among younger traditional undergraduates.

“At Simpson, I’ve had issues with identity,” he said. “I’m still learning about myself and who I am. I learned that doubting is good as long as I’m growing. I’ve been challenged to reach out to people and to love people.”


Simpson University is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate and teaching credential programs. Simpson's academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults in the north state. Simpson's recent curriculum expansion includes degrees in biology, nursing, outdoor leadership, and a master's degree in counseling psychology. For more information about the university, or to arrange a personalized visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit


Contact: SU Public Relations
(530) 226-4737