In 1979, Martha Ann “Mom” Deputy started Bowling Green’s first refugee program, which gradually developed into the International Center of Kentucky and helped more than 10,000 people assimilate into the community. Martha Deputy passed three years ago, but her legacy endures.
In 2016, shortly before her passing, Martha Deputy created a scholarship through the Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky to help international refugees or their descendants pay for college, university or technical school.
“It’s her legacy to encourage education among the refugees and their children and grandchildren,” said Suzanne Deputy, Martha’s daughter. “(The scholarship) is just a little bit to help them on their way.”
On Thursday evening, GEO International High School hosted a private graduation ceremony in the Warren Central High School auditorium to celebrate its first graduating class of about 50 students. The school serves a community of multilingual students who are new English learners.
The graduating class was presented with various awards and recognitions. Suzanne Deputy presented the $1,000 “Mom” scholarship with Kathy Hunt, Martha Deputy’s sister.
“You all have overcome many hardships,” Suzanne Deputy said. “You all are amazing, and we are so proud.”
“It was the hardest thing to choose,” said Hunt, who shared optimism for the fund growing and benefiting more students. “Every one of you is deserving.”
Graduating seniors Dim Sian Nuam, Hau Khawm Lun and Hamze Dahir were awarded the scholarship Thursday.
Dim Sian Nuam, who was also the class valedictorian, delivered a speech to her classmates.
“We are the OGs,” Dim Sian Nuam said. “Every time I see a reason to give up, I see a thousand reasons to keep going. … Use what you have, and make the best of it.”
Hamze Dahir, who was also named student of the year, rallied his peers with words of encouragement, while paying homage to the students who “worked at night and came to school in the morning” – and the parents who made the choice to risk their lives so their families could have better futures.
“Today, I’m here to say, everything is achievable,” Dahir said. “You all have the power to change the world.”
Suzanne Deputy agrees. She remarked on refugees’ unique ability to overcome sometimes unimaginable hardships – and then come to another country with limited English to excel in school and thrive in adulthood.
“I can’t say enough good about them. They’re the survivors, and they’re the very few survivors that get brought to the United States,” Suzanne Deputy said. “They’re real special people.”
There were two other “Mom” scholarship recipients: E. Myo Zin and Cin San Dim, who are graduating from WCHS at the top of their class.