Julia Roberts Goad
BLACKBERRY, Ky. - When Katie Compton was four years old, she was unable to walk, was unfamiliar with a toothbrush or toilet, and spoke few words in English.
Last week, the nine-year-old won an award for her essay “How I will change the world after college.”
The story of how the Compton family came together and triumphed over challenges is a remarkable testament of the power of family, hard work and what Katie’s mother Angie says was the voice of God.
Five years ago, Angie and Tolby Compton were the parents of a daughter, Scarlett, who had been adopted from China. When a friend of Angie’s was in the process of adopting a special needs boy from China, Angie went to the website to look at the friend’s child, and saw Katie’s picture.
“I know a lot of people might not believe this,” Angie said. “But I heard God say, ‘That’s your daughter.’”
The family, which was living in South Carolina at the time, wrote a petition for adoption. Thanks to some well placed friends, the adoption process was expedited, and, Angie said, “Eight months later we were in Nancheng, China, getting Katie.”
The orphanage director told the Comptons their daughter had been abandoned with her umbilical cord still attached and left at the gate of their facility and was found by a worker there. Katie couldn’t walk, she had not received any medical treatment in China. While her diagnosis was never pinpointed, cerebral palsy and polio were both blamed for her condition. By then, the family had moved to Pittsburgh, where Katie had corrective surgery.
Angie said that while her daughters are immersed in American culture, the family also remembers their Chinese roots.
“We recognize Chinese New Year, and when we were in Pittsburgh, we visited the Dragon Boat,” she said. “But there isn’t a lot locally for us to do, this is not a multi-cultural area.”
Angie explained that Katie’s Chinese name is Hong Zhu.
“We kept her name as a middle name,” Angie said. “It is very important to her because it is the only thing she ever had before coming home with us. There was a rainbow the morning they found her and this named her for the rainbow. The name Hong means brilliant and Zhu means full of life. We know now this name aptly suits her.”
But, the girls are blessed with family. Angie’s parents live in Blackberry, the girls’ paternal grandparents are from Pikeville. In addition to Katie and Scarlett, there are four brothers in the household, Dustin, Brandon, Colin and Lance.
When the Comptons adopted Katie’s sister Scarlett, she was just an infant.
“She cried in Chinese,” Angie said, laughing. But there was no language barrier, which there was with Katie. “She knew a few words in English, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ We learned bathroom quickly!”
Not only did Katie master English, she recently was one of only three winners statewide in the Kentucky Education Savings Plan Trust (KESPT) “Dream Out Loud Challenge.”
The Challenge invited kindergarten-sixth grade students to submit an original drawing, poem, video or essay answering the question, “How will I change the world after college?”
The contest was judged by a panel that included authors, poets, artists and representatives from the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) and Tuition Financing, Inc.
Ten essays were selected from 1,600 received from all across the state, said David Lawhorn, KESPT Advisor for KHEAA, and Katie’s was chosen as the best from those ten. Katie won $1,500 and $500 went to her school, Blackberry Elementary.
Angie said Katie understands how fortunate she is, and that she sees adoption as a blessing.
“She asked me a couple of years ago why more people didn’t try to be like God,” Angie said. “I told her that we do and she replied , no she didn’t think so because she would see more people adopting. I didn’t really know what to say to her. She then said well we are all Gods children and we are supposed to help. She also says she is going to adopt when she grows up.”
Katie’s winning essay is as follows:
How will I change the world after I go to college?
By Katie Hongzhu Compton
I will change the world after I go to college. I will study hard over the years and learn new languages. I will meet my goals and make all my dreams come true when I become a doctor.
I will study medicine and be a doctor. I know I will change the world because I understand life is different in other countries. Not everyone in the world has what we have in America. I was born in Nancheng, China and left at an orphanage. My parents came from America and adopted me when I was four years old. They brought me to the United States to live. I had cerebral palsy and needed a special surgery to help me walk. In China they did not give me medical care that I needed so it is my dream to help other children who need medicine.
As a doctor I will start a program that helps orphans from all countries. This program will give them the medical care they do not get. My group of doctors will travel together to all the different countries. We will visit the children there and give them free medical exams. If there are one who need surgery we will get them their operation. My group of doctors will also get money donated for things they might need to help them live a better life. Some children need wheelchairs, braces, walkers or other special orthopedic things. This would help children like me get around better.
My team of doctors would also check each child to see if they get good nutrition. Nutrition is important for children’s bones and teeth. As a doctor I will be able to check their blood to see if they are getting all the vitamins for a healthy life.
By starting a program to help orphaned children I will change the world. The children I can help will know our world is a wonderful place and people do care. They will know our world has love.