Remarkable Student Attributes Success to Social Worker, Pays it Forward

John Tuy is a 20-year-old accounting major from the University of South Florida who was selected as one of the top 25 students out of the school’s 4,300 students. He won the award by submitting an essay that attributes his academic success to one person in particular: a Salvation Army social worker.

Eva Whitehouse, Community Center Director for The Salvation Army in West Palm Beach, FL, tutored Tuy as a 5-year-old Cambodian immigrant who did not speak English. Tuy was dealing with family turmoil, an international move, and a mom who worked two jobs. Tuy says Whitehouse did more than teach him basic English language skills: she taught him how to learn, how to ask for help, and that tenacity pays off. The best part? Tuy is paying it forward by working with a rehabilitation agency to help recovering addicts learn how to manage their weekly finances.

Now he’s competing for the #1 spot as most remarkable “25 under 25”. Check out Tuy’s story below, and cast your vote for him here:


My name is John Tuy, and I’m a 20-year-old accounting major. I wish I could say that my life today has been the result of a carefully designed plan that I’ve executed perfectly, but that simply isn’t the case. In reality, my life has led me down a twisting path that has transformed heartaches into possibilities, and mistakes into opportunities.

I was born on September 1st, 1993 in Cambodia. My mother and I fled Cambodia to escape a violent relationship with my biological father. I arrived in America when I was 5 years old. American culture was radically different from what I was used to and I didn’t speak a word of English. My mother sought out the help of The Salvation Army to take care of me while she worked two jobs. I was placed with a Floridian family headed up by Ms. Eva Monroe. She was my first teacher – but more than that, she was the person who taught me how to learn. Ms. Eva taught me English and instilled a passion for learning within me. I graduated high school 17th out of my class of 422 students as an AP Scholar. I owe this achievement not to myself, but to the dedication and selflessness of the countless teachers that would meet with me before and after school to tutor me for free, just like Ms. Eva had.

I was accepted into USF for the summer of 2011, but began my studies on academic probation due to my low SAT scores. USF, much like arriving in America, was very intimidating for me. I felt lost, out of place and behind the curve. The probationary status wasn’t doing any wonders for my confidence either. Instead of focusing on my fears, I resorted to something that Ms. Eva had encouraged me to do years ago: seek help outside of the classroom. I badgered my professors before and after classes, and chased down anyone who was willing to help me. My efforts paid off; soon everything began to make sense and I started to excel. USF was beginning to feel like the home that I never felt like I had.

Upon arriving at USF my first summer, I was certain that I’d be required to choose my major immediately. So, under this self-induced “immense pressure,” I chose accounting – simply because I liked math. My absurdity paid off for me, though, because by happenstance I had instantly jumped into a major that I’ve since come to love. I’ve maintained a Florida Bright Futures scholarship since I’ve been enrolled, and after my first year at USF I received a scholarship from the Fred B. Seiber Foundation. The Seiber scholarship is awarded to students who achieve at least a 3.5 GPA, overcame adversity, and posses the characteristics of integrity, leadership, and entrepreneurship. I was a member and the social chairman of the USF Accounting Society during the 2013 school year. I’m a member of the Beta Alpha Psi Honors Accounting Fraternity and I’m currently their interview process chairperson. I was awarded a USF Student Excellence Grant for the spring 2014 semester, and I was the second place winner of the fall 2013 Grant Thornton speech contest. Furthermore, I’m a member of the USF Student Advisory Board, and I currently have a 3.89 overall GPA, and a 3.93 accounting GPA.

In less than 3 years from when I started school at USF, I’ve already completed 3 summer internships. In the fall of 2012, with the help of the USF Accounting Societies networking events, I connected with recruiters from some of the top accounting firms in the country. I was selected for the Early ID programs of both Price-Waterhouse-Cooper (PwC) and Deloitte. Last summer I interned for PwC. I’ve since been offered, and have accepted, a second internship with PwC for the upcoming summer of 2014. The PwC internship program identifies and selects promising young individuals, and develops them into full-time employees of their firm.

Ms. Eva forever altered the path upon which I set out. She unknowingly twisted my fate with her simple gifts of time, patience and understanding. I owe all of my success to her, and I’m repaying this debt back by helping others. I spend my spare time tutoring both high school and college math and accounting students as a way of giving back to others what was so freely given to me. My ultimate dream is to somehow alter the paths and twist the fate of those I help, in much the same way Ms. Eva did for me.


We give thanks to John for sharing his story, as well as for the impactful service of Eva Whitehouse, Salvation Army Community Center Director in West Palm Beach, FL.