By Alice Kenny
Julie Vann, 17, whose parents fled the brutal assault of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, dreamed of one day going to college and building a better life for her family. But when her father who had found work in the U.S. as a maintenance worker, died last year from skin cancer, the challenge of overcoming her family’s tragic history grew tougher.
Her mother, who speaks little English and can no longer work as a manicurist due to carpal tunnel syndrome, weeps every day as she shares her dinner with a photo of her dad. The family’s sole income is now just $1100 in Social Security survivor benefits for Julie and her younger sister.
Yet Julie remains determined to not only graduate from high school this year but to go to college to become an engineer.
Fortunately, Catholic Charities and its Transitio
n to Adulthood Program stepped it. Catholic Charities helped her prepare for her SAT exams, took her on trips to visit colleges, helped her complete her college applications and provided her, thanks to funds from the New York Times Neediest Cases program, with the money she needed to purchase her cap and gown, graduation tickets, senior award dinner and yearbook. Most important, it provided her with the counseling and support she needed to fulfill her dream.