This section of our website is dedicated to some incredible young people who have worked so diligently to follow their dreams, sometimes against all odds. They dispel all the negative myths about the "younger generation" and offer us all hope that our world is in good hands through the promise that each of their stories offer. While we are so proud of them, we realize that their success has been supported by their parents, schools, and so many other community groups. Thea Bowman House has been blessed to be a part of their journey. We also want to remember some of our alumni who continue to struggle and hope that we can be there for them as well. Enjoy their remarkable stories.
"My name is Isabella Moo, a graduating senior at SUNY Buffalo State College pursuing a degree in International Relations with a concentration in peace and conflict, double minoring in Asian studies and Legal studies following the World Advantage Language Certificate Trek in Mandarin Chinese. From the time I had resettled to the United States, I was welcomed with loving arms into the Thea Bowman House. I give so much of my gratitude to the well respected staff, namedly Ms. Brown, Ms Wright, Ms Domingue, Ms Evans, Ms Camp, Ms Debbie and to so many others who had touched not only my family, but also my own. I resettled to Utica, New York in 2001 with my mother through the refugee resettlement process. We are Karen refugees and though I was not economically privileged or ahead in certain aspects, I was allowed many wonderful opportunities which allowed me to create a variety of perspectives. My father passed away from Leukemia and though I may not understand the considerable amount of love many had for him, I was able to understand through the embrace of many such as the family at the Thea Bowman House. I am considerably privileged to have been a part of this program that seeks to help families from low income families, one parent families, and families who struggle economically.
I can share from my experience, when my father had passed, they helped my mother and my family in so many ways. With the early bus stop program, it allowed me to be inside of a warm building while having appropriate transportation to elementary school, middle school, and high school. While my mother was the only parent working, their after school program allowed us to be in a safe environment allowing my mother the sense of security that we were safe. Their homework program with volunteer staff allowed me to have someone to aid me in my homework when I was younger. I was not able to go to my parents because her english was limited. Aside from this, they also made sure we had a full stomach before going home and this I will cherish forever. I was also given an opportunity to give back to the Thea Bowman House through a mission through our American Baptist Churches Association called the “Penny Project.” Although, I could never give back to them in comparison how they have touched my life of which I could not list them all. They were such a strong support group in our family's time of need. The adults there impacted my life in a sense I was able to become more accepting and tolerant of diversity. I became more culturally aware and culturally accepted. It was not just an after school program, but a strong foundation in my livelihood. When I had troubles, I had adults who wanted to listen to me, when I struggled, I had adults encourage me. They encouraged and embraced me. They were a family who taught me to grow and to create different perspectives instead of maintaining a limited mindset.
From their teachings, I was able to embark on a journey of awareness. I hope to give back to my community by furthering my education in immigration law and foreign policy. I potentially aspire to give back to my community by working with refugees and immigrants through legal matters or study environmental law in the hopes of concentrating on sustainable development."
"Hello my name is Tabo Bo and I am a junior attending Utica College. I came to the states when I was four years old from Thailand. My family was initially from Burma, currently known as Myanmar. However, because of the civil war that was occurring my family had to flee to a refugee camp, Tham Hin where I was born. I look at life like it was all a bunch of chances that came in together. It was a chance that I was born in a Refugee camp. It was a chance that our family was granted the opportunity to come to America. It was a chance that I was raised in the Thea Bowman house as my second home. Growing up in Thea Bowman was a utopian home. I didn't realize it until I left the daycare center. But it was more than just an average daycare center. It was a haven. It was a place my siblings and I can go to after school while our parents were at work. It was a place where we can do our homework. It was a place where we can eat. It was a place for kids from different areas and cultures to come together and share each other stories and experiences."
Julius Blackshear Jr.
"My name is Julius Blackshear Jr. I am twenty-six years old and I work for the Department of Transportation as a Civil Engineer. Growing up being apart of Thea Bowman was very beneficial for me. I am the only child, and at times it was tough. Most people think being the only child is great because you can get anything you want but having siblings in my opinion must be great. Thea Bowman gave me the ability to have lifelong friends. I am forever thankful for that. While growing up I had lots of fun in the program and when I got of age in high school, I had the opportunity to work for the same organization that help raise me. It felt great to work with kids. It felt great to give back. I liked working with the 4th – 7th graders. They seemed the most comprehensive and at that age I felt like they soaked in a lot of what I had to say/teach them. Working with kids while finishing high school, and then going to MVCC was a blessing. It fit my schedule quite well and being with the kids was a stress reliver from the work I had to endure during the semester. Working with kids gave me a sense of still feeling like a kid even though I was getting older. I graduated MVCC in 2015 and moved onto Suny Polytechnic. I finished my college career in May of 2018. It was truly a blessing to graduate. Felt good to be 1st of my close peer group to graduate.
I landed my career job in Syracuse August of 2018. I was hoping and believing for an opportunity to have one here in Utica, because the drive to Syracuse and back is a lot. Sure, enough in May 2019 I was blessed again with a job opportunity in Utica with the same company. Currently I still work for them and this year I started a vending business called Visionary Vending. I got the inspiration/idea from social media. A vendor went viral about how much his machines were making, so I messaged him. He gave me his eBook and I took a leap of faith. My senior quote in high school was “to get something you never had; you have to do something you never done before.” That resonates with me all the time. I hope to continue the path of success and be a positive influence for others."
"My name is Snow Steel, and I am a senior at Utica College. My major is Criminal Justice with a concentration in constitutional law. I chose my major as Criminal Justice because after graduating with my bachelor, I want to pursue a career in law enforcement. I want to pursue a career in law enforcement because I want to help people, keep the community safe, and it's an exciting career there will always be an adventure everyday. Being a Refugee woman, I want to set a good example for my siblings and for the Karen community especially for the women and becoming the first Karen female police officer in Utica will show that as a woman we can accomplish anything we put our minds to. I am currently working for Midtown Utica Community Center. It is a nonprofit organization and we do many things for the community. We work more with low income refugee families but everyone is welcome to come and use our services and rent out the place. Working at Midtown Utica Community Center helped me learn about how compassionate I am with the community and how much I enjoy helping families that are struggling. I am comparing law enforcement to my workplace because I feel that it relates to each other a lot. I enjoy helping people at my workplace and law enforcement is about keeping people safe and the community safe which is what I love doing.
Whenever needed I would volunteer taking pictures at church especially during the big holidays that the Karen church would celebrate and I also enjoy taking photos of people and nature during my free time. Overall, I want to thank Thea Bowman House and On Point for shaping me into the person I am. They do a lot for me and my family and I would love to give back to them in the future."
"My name is Maria Htoo, I am a freshman at Rochester Institute of Technology. I am a young Karen American woman, bom and raised in Utica, NY. I live with my mother, Saywah Htoo who came through the refugee resettlement process under the UNHCR to America in 2001, and sisters Isabella Moo, who is currently attending her senior in college at Buffalo State and Shawah Moo who is in grade 11 at Thomas R Proctor High School. I enjoy playing volleyball, being a part of the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program and I love giving back to not only my Karen Refugee Community, but my diverse Utican community. I have attended Thea Bowman House for the majority of my life and I believe it has been a wonderful opportunity to be open to the community and has opened many opportunities for me. From the wonderful directors, to the wonderful teachers and lifelong friends I have made, I believe that this place brings so much joy to many. Helping me with homework, doing different activities I don't normally do, feeding me the best food, and just watching over me while my mom was busy has given me a new perspective on life. Many memories have been made and I have so much to be grateful for when it comes to a place like this one. I am glad to have been a student at Thea Bowman House for so many years and I do plan on giving back.
I have been involved in my community and fulfilled leadership roles that have shaped my character, morals, and ethics, but most importantly, my family's unusual background inspired me to become an ethnic minority in STEM, but a woman in STEM. My family is Karen and my entire household is just women. Being in the Young Scholars Liberty Partnership Program and the Proctor NJROTC Unit, I understand the importance of giving back to the community. On the other hand, even with countless hours of community service, I was also involved with activities with Thea Bowman House, volleyball, soccer, band, and especially NJROTC. I tend to keep myself busy with such activities because it allows me the chance to build different qualities of myself. Being involved in so many things, I've learned discipline, citizenship, and especially leadership. With the different skills I learn, I am able to put them into play with my everyday life that affects the things that I do. Being a well rounded student and being able to grow as a person are things that allow me to enjoy life. Helping the community and growing skills that are able to help throughout time allow me to portray myself in a way that interests people."
Hello, my name is Ibn Khalif. I was about 16 months when I first joined the family over at Thea Bowman. And I left when I turned 18, in their teen room. And I am currently a senior at Utica College, in my final semester. My major is called Wellness & Adventure Education. There are two tracks to it, the phys education track or the corporate wellness track. I am corporate wellness. As a wellness professional, I want to give back to humanity by helping people improve their quality of life mentally, physically, and spiritually. I love being able to volunteer and give back to the same organization that played a huge part in who I am today. Two summers ago, I remember volunteering at Camp Kingsley, reliving those same moments I had years ago, but making sure I can give the same experience in a way that is unforgettable, powerful, and life-changing. I am working full-time over at Labcorp. This Spring, I am interning with SPI of Utica, working with athletes from various sports. I am very grateful to say that I am an alum of Thea Bowman House as they have provided me structure and a support system full of mentors and lifelong friends. I was first introduced to what wellness was at Thea Bowman House. There was time for everything, a time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A time for rest, recreation, and a time for studying. These set times made prepared us to maintain a sense of balance in the real world. It also made these types of activities enjoyable. After I graduate, I plan on going to graduate school and getttinga master's degree in Kinesiology, Exercise Science, Athletic Training, or furthering my education in Wellness. I might go into service as well. I am also apart of a pair of organizations called Nomadic Voices and Hoopers Rehab. A quote I would leave you guys with is from Kobe Bryant. “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do.” Like many of the kids over at Thea Bowman, I can relate to. I grew up in Cornhill of Utica. A working mother and father that, had to put their best foot forward in order to provide me a life that was better than there’s. Not the best of circumstances, but if I can do it, so can you!!! I also would like to thank my family over at On Point, HEOP and CSTEP for their help along the way as well. #JustRehab #BeHeard