“Family is the most precious treasure a person can possess.”This heartfelt insight comes from Thomas Nuzzi, a Foresters Competitive Scholarship winner and self-proclaimed expert when it comes to families, having had three loving homes in his lifetime.
While Thomas has just started his first year at Olivet Nazarene University, studying mechanical engineering, he’s had more life experiences than most youth his age.
Thomas’ story begins in Ethiopia, where he was born into his first family. When his birth parents passed away when Thomas was just six years old, he was placed in an orphanage, his second home, which he describes warmly as ‘a big and noisy family’.
“This family may have been brought together by sadness, but we took care of one another, and made pleasant memories and lifelong bonds” he says. “The orphanage was great because I had all my basic needs met, I received an education and I began to learn English”.
At eleven years old, Thomas immigrated to the United States to join his forever family.
“Moving to America was a big adjustment – it was difficult, especially with the language barrier” he says. “But the support of a family who loves you makes all the difference in the world.”
Inevitably, these experiences shaped his values and outlook on life and have driven Thomas to pay it forward.
“When I was in the orphanage, I benefited so much from the volunteers that came and shared their lives with me and the rest of my friends. I must try to give back and help others as much as these volunteers helped me,” says Thomas. “Volunteering is a part of my life; I define myself by helping people”.
Since coming to the United States, Thomas has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, taking on a new project with the organization each year. He also volunteers for his local church and is part of the National Honor Society (NHS), which recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character. As an NHS member, Thomas is required to volunteer up to 50 hours per year, a target he has successfully reached for last three years.
“It’s a joy to give back, not a chore,” says Thomas. “I enjoy being around people and helping them through difficulties; I love to interact with them and learn their stories and hear about the hardships they’ve overcome.”