Jay (Northeastern Ohio)
Girls Hope of Pittsburgh alumna Caitlyn is earning her Ph.D. in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago, but she isn’t planning to go into academia. Instead, she plans to meld the writing skills she honed at Carlow University (B.A./B.S., biology/professional writing) with what she’s learning now to advocate for science.
"Everything you use every day involves science, but very few people understand it," she says. "No one explains to you how your microwave works, for example. People tend to be afraid of things they don’t understand. What I want to do is demystify it and explain the value of it."
Her current research is a case in point of the practical application of science. "My research is on angiogenesis—tissue regeneration at the cellular level," she says. "Eventually, my work could be used to inhibit tumor growth."
Caitlyn quickly adds that calling her work a cure for cancer is too premature, but "if it works out, it’ll be a pretty big deal in terms of therapeutic application. That’s just one example of how important science is to us."
Caitlyn credits Boys Hope Girls Hope not only with the foundations of her formal education, but with providing another important lesson. "Being around the staff and the board makes you realize the importance of getting involved. They take the time to give back—you see firsthand how rewarding it is. Girls Hope doesn’t let you get away. It teaches you that you might have a lot of gifts, but you also have the responsibility to use them."
She pauses, and then says, "Maybe that’s why it’s important for me to get out of the lab and talk about science. I want to justify future funding for science, and to communicate that need to a wider audience. We in the scientific community need to start talking to people, and start working to affect policy. It’s too important not too. "
After a nomadic childhood across much of the Northeast and Midwest, BJ and his younger brother found themselves living with an aunt and uncle in Covington, KY, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Through a cousin attending St. Xavier High School, BJ found out about Boys Hope Girls Hope, and, eager for the chance to study at a top-rated school, BJ joined the program, and enrolled at St. Xavier.
BJ credits Boys Hope Girls Hope with giving him the kind of structure that he needed to be able to succeed academically. "It was total culture shock, but I just loved it. I loved having the structure the house provided. I’d never had anyone tell me ‘Do your homework’ every night before. This was really an effective thing for me."
"Boys Hope Girls Hope gave me a place to live, as opposed to crashing with my aunt and uncle," he says. "And living with kids from so many different kinds of neighborhoods and different pasts also gave me a unique social awareness."
Being a part of Boys Hope Girls Hope provided BJ with opportunities to grow in many different directions. He swam and rowed for St. Xavier, and also took his first chemistry class there, sparking an interest that would lead him to Willamette University and to a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Columbia University in New York.
Physical and intellectual achievement weren’t the only opportunities Boys Hope Girls Hope provided. "The spiritual aspect of Boys Hope Girls Hope was something I hadn’t really experienced before," he says. "It was good to be exposed to it, and I have an appreciation for it. It gives me an added appreciation for what I’ve learned from science—the more you study, the more complicated you realize the world is, and yet everything still works."
BJ has accepted a position with a major management consulting firm, where he plans to put the methodology he’s learned from hard science to work in a different sphere: "Consulting and science are both about problem solving—a lot of the methods you use in one are equally applicable in the other."
In the fall of 2008, he returned to Boys Hope Girls Hope as a volunteer, tutoring current scholars in the New York Affiliate in science.
Hung’s father, a South Vietnamese U.S. sympathizer during the Vietnam War, was in a Communist concentration camp for most of his son’s childhood. After his father’s release, Hung, his parents, and his brother and two sisters were granted refugee status and relocated to Chicago, where they became part of that city’s large Vietnamese community.
After meeting some Boys Hope Girls Hope scholars at his parish church, Hung spoke to his priest about joining the program and was admitted after his sophomore year of high school at the age of 15, attending Loyola Academy… and getting a different kind of education along the way.
"Until I came to Boys Hope Girls Hope, I’d never really been outside the Vietnamese community," he says. "Boys Hope Girls Hope is a diverse community. It was the first time I’d ever lived with people who weren’t Vietnamese. That’s where I got interested in other cultures and learned to appreciate them."
The experience got him thinking.
"It got me interested in other cultures, and that was a bridge to thinking about other countries," he says. "Because of my background, I’d always been interested in helping the poor. As refugees, we were very poor, but my parents were always sending money back to our relatives in Vietnam. That makes you think about how best to use the world’s resources, and it makes you think about social justice."
While a Boys Hope Girls Hope scholar, Hung’s community service projects included working with a refugee resettlement services agency in Chicago, helping recent Somali immigrants find housing and jobs.
He began thinking seriously about a life of service to others in his senior year at Loyola, and upon graduation in 2006, became a Jesuit novice. He completed his novitiate in 2008, having ministered once again to immigrants at refugee resettlement agencies, homeless people and drug addicts in homeless shelters; the elderly at hospitals and infirmaries; and schoolchildren at various schools. In 2008, he began a degree in Philosophy and will also study Math, Computer Science, and Chinese at Loyola University.
Jay came to Boys Hope Girls Hope at the age of twelve. Enrolled at St. Ignatius High, he became the school’s first African-American member of the debate team and went to the state championships as a freshman. By the time he was a sophomore, he was one of the top 20 debaters in the state of Ohio.
"What Boys Hope Girls Hope did for me was to offer me opportunities," he says. "Nothing gets handed to you—you need to seize those opportunities proactively. But it’s still an opportunity."
He graduated with honors from St. Ignatius, winning the prestigious Bellringer Award and the accompanying $10,000 scholarship and going on to Villanova University, where he was recognized as one of the 12 most promising minority male college students in America; he worked for both the National Hispanic Institute and the World Bank; won fellowships to study at Georgetown, Cambridge and Harvard; and co-founded The Paragon, an on-campus organization at Villanova dedicated to developing and teaching leadership in the African-American community.
Jay began working for Goldman Sachs’ Telecom, Media and Technology division in the fall of 2008, having won a prestigious internship there as a senior at Villanova University.
Greg - Cincinnati
Greg came to Boys Hope Girls Hope as a 13 year old. His father had passed away when Greg was still a child, leaving his family in straitened circumstances and in a neighborhood where drugs, gangs, and violence were the norm. Boys Hope Girls Hope gave him a safe home and helped him work through the anger and frustration engendered by his father’s death. Between Boys Hope Girls Hope and the strong women in his life—his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother—Greg matured from an angry and confused boy into a poised, confident, and accomplished young man with a dazzling future ahead of him.
The closest he’d come to the football field since the sixth grade was playing in the marching band. He had played basketball throughout his high school career. But the team’s coach, St. Xavier High School’s head coach Steve Specht, having seen Greg play basketball, recognized his athleticism and wondered if he might not excel in a different arena. He encouraged Greg to come out for football.
Greg led St. Xavier through a 14-0 undefeated season and a state championship, garnering athletic scholarship offers from the University of Connecticut, Michigan, Michigan State, Miami of Ohio, Wake Forest, Ohio State, North Carolina State, Boston College, and the University of Louisville. After an agonizing decision-making process, Greg, partially because of its proximity to his family, decided on the University of Louisville.
"I'm so grateful for what Boys Hope has done for me and I always will be," Greg says. "If it wasn't for them, I might not be where I am right now. But my mother saw the potential in me and I'm grateful for that, too. I'm blessed."
In 2012, having graduated from U of L, Greg was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, for which team he now plays defensive end.