Here’s a victory for the quiet kids: Mentors at the Bellevue Boys & Girls Club helped Moses Shiong go from introverted youth to confident teen. Now he’s won an award from Gov. Jay Inslee and started “Be Heard” to help other quiet kids speak up.
Moses Shiong didn’t feel supported at home. His parents, Hmong refugees from Laos, didn’t seem to understand their American son. He said they were disappointed that he wasn’t a traditional first son, strong, showing no weakness. His mentors said the parents didn’t seem to notice him withdrawing, locking himself in his room to cry.
By his sophomore year of high school he was skipping first-period English, too exhausted mentally and emotionally, he said, from arguments at home. When his father had a heart attack and could no longer work, Shiong blamed himself and doubled his hours at a Bellevue pizza restaurant to help his family financially.
Shiong, 17, said he had suicidal thoughts, but knew he couldn’t abandon his sister, who was five years younger.
“I wanted her to have a better future. That was a huge motivation for me,” he said.
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Last month, Shiong stood beside Gov. Jay Inslee, honored as one of the 13 finalists for the state Boys & Girls Youth of the Year Award, given to the high-school senior who most embodies the club’s values of leadership, service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles.
Shiong credits the turnaround in his life to the staff at the Bellevue Boys & Girls Club, where he’d attended after-school programs since he was in kindergarten. At the club, he said, he found adults willing to listen and offer support.
One, Masao Yamada, director of the club’s Keystone Leadership Program for high-school students, became a father figure to him, counseling him on how to avoid conflicts at home and offering him opportunities to volunteer, first within the club and then in the community.