Htoo’s Story


Alivia Lindorfer, Journalism Student

Today immigration remains among one of the most controversial topics of American news.

Htoo Poe is a Senior at North High School. She was born in Mae La refugee camp, where her Mother’s family had been located since 1984 to escape the ethnic cleansing of the Burmese Government. Htoo came to America from Thailand when she was only six years old. “I didn’t know a word of English,” she said. Htoo explained that she experienced a massive culture shock upon starting the first grade. She shared an instance when she’d been scolded for referring to her teacher as “Teacher” instead of “Mrs.” In Htoo’s culture it shows respect to refer to someone of respect as teacher. “It shows respect to call your teachers and your doctors, ‘teacher.’”

Htoo also shared her frustration the amount of false information on the news and on social media regarding immigration and refugees. Often we hear the stereotype that, “immigrants are sucking money out of Americans pockets,” or that they are “stealing Americans benefits.” Too disagrees with these statements, arguing that refugees pay their way into America. She recounted how her family had to pay back the American Government for all their airfare as well as find their own lawyers all while navigating their first steps in America. Htoo recounted how difficult it was for her family to begin a new life in America. “It makes me very angry,” she said in response to the stereotype that refugees and immigrants have it easy once they get to America. She told me that even after her family had left the refuge camp, they still had many hardships to face. It wasn’t all smooth sailing and her family had a lot of hard work.

Today, Htoo volunteers for an organization that helps immigrants and refugees with the processes of beginning their life in America. After Htoo’s experiences of being a refugee herself, she wants to continue to help those that will go through what she did.