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Why In the World Would I Choose You?

Love Letters to Toledo is partnering for the month of June with Welcome Toledo-Lucas County in celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month 2016. Immigrant Heritage Month is a national month-long celebration of the individuals, families, and communities who have built our country’s economy and created the unique social fabric of our nation. Welcome Toledo-Lucas County, a collaboration of community partners housed in the Board of Lucas County Commissioners in partnership with Toledo LISC, are asking community members to join them in celebrating Toledo’s vibrant immigrant heritage by telling immigrant heritage stories using the social media hashtags #IHMToledo and #Welcome TLC.

 

Dear Toledo,

Why in the world would I choose you? This is one of the first questions that others typically ask me when they first meet me. Out of all of the other “better” relationships that I could have forged with other cities in America, why would I decide to start my life, my career, here in Toledo, Ohio? I can say without a doubt that I could not have asked for a better place to begin my life. You are perfect. You have taught me so much. You are so good to me.  I can tell you that I would not have accomplished nearly as much if I had ended up somewhere else. Let me tell you three ways you have played a tremendous role in the person that I have become today: education, professional career, and personal growth. First let me remind you how our relationship began.

My Toledo Story began about six years ago when I received an email from two University of Toledo alumni and founding members of the Hut Outreach charity, Aaron and Nicole Coulter. Although I have extended family and Haitian friends all over the United States, I had always told these two Glass City citizens that I have wanted to pursue a higher education here because of my first Toledo visit in 2004. After my high school graduation in 2009, these “blan” (what Haitian people call white people regardless of origin) told me they had purchased a plane ticket for me and that I was, like the Eddie Murphy movie, “Coming to America.” I wasn’t leaving the fictional Republic of Zamunda to come to Queens to find my queen, like in the movie. But I was leaving my beautiful home country of Haiti, also considered the poorest country of the western hemisphere. I was very excited to come to the United States, the “land of opportunity,” to check out a few colleges. I immediately started taking English classes at the American Language Institute at UT and started to meet people from all of over the world. During my first week in Toledo, I was able to check off one of my long time dreams, meeting people from China. Everything was going very well until January 12, 2010, exactly 13 days after I arrived in Toledo, when the earthquake in Haiti killed over 150,000 people in Port au Prince. I would have been in the middle of that chaos if I were still in Haiti. God chose you, Toledo, to save my life.

The first reason why you have been so good to me was that you educated me. Although it was a very dark time for me after the earthquake, you welcomed me and made me feel at home. Knowing my ambition to be the first in my family to get a formal college education in the states, and my family financial situation before and after the earthquake, the University of Toledo Presidential Office chose to subsidize the majority of my tuition. I am eternally grateful for that gift because I am pretty sure I would not have had that opportunity anywhere else. I started college classes that same fall while working in the construction industry. I was top of my class and had a 4.0 GPA for two consecutive years. I started to be heavily involved in student organizations and the community. I have made a huge impact here locally as well as internationally because of the investment of the University of Toledo in my education.

The second reason why you have played such a tremendous role in my life is through my professional growth. During my involvement in a student organization at the University of Toledo, I met a great mentor, Thomas Winston, who facilitated an interview for a Finance Internship at the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. After a year of great performance (as I have been told), I was offered a full time position as a Financial Analyst upon my graduation in May 2014. Working at the Port Authority, I have been offered a first class seat to see the potential of this city. Not only am I making a BIG difference with the financing tools offered there, I have been granted the opportunity to experience this city with organizations such as Leadership Toledo, EPIC Toledo, and Welcome Toledo-Lucas County. Working at the Port has opened up the opportunity to pursue one of my passions to help entrepreneurs make their dreams become reality with different fixed assets loans as well as the micro loan program, ECDI. Toledo has also offered me a great platform to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. Since December 2014, I started a side photo booth and video business called CAN Digital Group. This organization has helped charities like Walk for Water Toledo raise over $35,000 to provide Clean Water to people in need around the world.

The last reason is my growth as a result of personal and professional relationships in my life. I am very grateful for the Toledo community because it has supported, encouraged, and believed in me. I am very grateful for University of Toledo’s Dr. Sammy Spann and Sara Clark, both of whom have made a huge impact in my college career teaching me about the joy of serving others. I moved here knowing maybe 10 people – Nicole and Aaron Coulter (my two “bonus parents”) and their close family. A couple of months later, the SOMA Community, a young adult ministry led by my mentor Pastor Sammy Adebiyi, made me feel like I had been living here my whole life. Most importantly through this organization, I was also able to meet my beautiful, supportive, and caring “special friend,” Dr. Rachael. You have blessed me tremendously, Toledo.

I am not sure what the future holds, but I am very excited to see what you and I will become. You will always be my home away from home. My first love!!! Thank you, Toledo, for all you have done and what you will do for me and my family. I could not have chosen any better place to live.

 

Getro was featured in the Toledo City Paper article “Doing Better in Toledo: New Locals” for bringing experience and activism to our area. Visit candigitalgroup.com to learn more about Getro’s photobooth rentals and video production company (** he donates a portion of the revenues to non-profit orgs, because Getro truly gives back! **)  He chose to have his photo taken at the docs, his favorite place that just so happens to have a great view of the adopted city he loves.

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