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Graduate Stories of Hope | Shirly Tam

Graduate Stories of Hope | Shirly Tam 1

"A big thing I learned is empathy. I was exposed to a lot of people because Boys Hope Girls Hope reaches out to people from different walks of life."

Shirly joined Boys Hope Girls Hope of Arizona in the fifth grade.  Her parents had immigrated to the US from China when they were young adults and they wanted better opportunities for their family. 

Shirly’s parents cooked, cleaned, and delivered food for Chinese restaurants most of their lives.  Growing up, Shirly and her older sister worked alongside them. Shirly’s teacher recommended Boys Hope Girls Hope after recognizing Shirly’s academic strengths, engagement with student government and need for additional support.  Shirly said her parents didn’t speak English and, at first, were confused by the idea that Shirly would join the Academy program.  Eventually, they got used to the idea and agreed it would be very positive for Shirly.

After a year at the University of Southern California, Shirly transferred to Arizona State University (ASU) to reduce her educational costs.  She recently graduated from ASU with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design, a discipline that incorporates her interests and talents in engineering, building things, sketching, and drawing. She is currently working at Arizona State University’s Center for Bio-Mediated and Bio-Inspired Geotechnics.  Shirly is passionate about how her field can make a difference with the COVID-19 pandemic: “One of the issues that has come up is with masks and what to do for people who read lips.  It’s an interesting design challenge that motivates me.”

Shirly said she’s benefitted from the sense of community she developed at Boys Hope Girls Hope with her peers, volunteer mentors, and team members.  The focus on service was also especially influential. “A big thing I learned is empathy.  I was exposed to a lot of people because Boys Hope Girls Hope reaches out to people from different walks of life.  Through community service, we helped out at homeless and domestic abuse shelters.  Seeing all of those kinds of people fostered empathy in me at an early age. Boys Hope Girls Hope, for sure, has made a big impact on my life.”

Graduate Stories of Hope | Shirly Tam 3
Graduate Stories of Hope | Shirly Tam 2

Photos:  1) Shirly with her parents 2) Shirly with her parents on a Boys Hope Girls Hope trip 3) Shirly at a Boys Hope Girls Hope summer program at St. Louis for incoming college freshmen