Jenjira May Htoo is currently a graduate student in Information Design and Technology at the SUNY Institute of Technology. She is a Karen refugee whose family was originally from the Karen borderlands between what is now Thailand and Burma. She was born and brought up in a Refugee Camp in Thailand and moved to the United States in Fall 2007 after living at Mae La refugee camp.
Jenjira was 18 when she arrived in Utica, New York. Unfortunately due to her age she was not allowed to attend the local high school. Instead she was placed in the New Comer Program, a special program for refugee youth aged 17 to 21. This group was diverse and individuals had different educational backgrounds.
Jenjira spent two months in the New Comer Program and started seeking employment. Her first job was at Turning Stone Casino, where she worked as a housekeeper in the hotel. After working full time for a year and half and saving up some money, she started thinking of pursuing more education. Jenjira decided to enroll at MVCC. For her first two semesters she attend the ESL program. After completing ESL Jenjira enrolled as a fulltime student. While attending school full time she also had a job as a fulltime CNA (certified nursing assistant).
In May 2012, she became the first person in her family to graduate with a college degree, earning an Associate in Psychology. She was also the first person to pursue higher education from the group of Karen/Burmese refugee youth who came to the U.S in 2007-2008 and did not have the opportunity to attend high school in Utica, New York. In December 2013, she graduated from SUNY-IT with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Sociology.
Jenjira was a member of the Psychology Club, the American and Refugee Students for Closer Connection, and an active volunteer with Tabernacle Baptist Church in Utica, NY. She is interested in helping her Karen community, and youth in particular, as well as survivors of trauma. She is also interested in helping girls and minorities enter STEM fields.
To me, success means to achieve the goals I have set for myself, and to be satisfied to what I have.