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Richard Rao - Escape to a New Life

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Richard Rao was born in South Korea. He was adopted by an American when he was only five years old. His mother also adopted four other kids. An older sister, two older brothers, and a younger sister. All his adopted siblings were African American, his mother was a single, unemployed, caucasian woman.

All of Richard's older siblings had dropped out of school, as did his mother. His mother told Richard he should drop out too. Everyone else did. This is what led Richard to join Project Hope. He wanted to finish school, but he had all these family issues that made it very difficult for him.

Jerry Hobby became Richard's mentor. In their first meeting, Jerry asked Richard, "Tell me about your life." The answer to that question was shocking. Richard talked about being held down and beaten, forced to shoplift, forced to beg on the streets, how he slept on the floor, and was very poorly fed. We also discovered that Richard had a handicap and a learning disability. The government issued a monthly check to his mother to help provide care for him, but very little money actually was spent on Richard. There were more problems than this. The bottom line is that Richard needed more help than just getting through school.

Richard and Jerry came up with a plan. Richard agreed to do extra credit work before and after school and to attend summer school as well. Richard did all this enthusiastically because he realized that he could actually accomplish his goals of graduating.

To deal with his family situation, Jerry put the word out that Richard needed help. Word got around to Sheri, a retired school teacher, who offered to let Richard move in with her until he completed school. Jerry helped Richard get control of his government check, get an id, and solve other problems while Sheri made sure that Richard made it to school every day.

Richard was able to fulfill one of his biggest dreams. He attended his prom. He had a tuxedo, a date, and memories to last a lifetime.

Richard graduated school with several A's on his report card. We are all very proud of him. Richard now lives in his own apartment. He has had one job since graduating and is currently looking for a new job. Richard will always have challenges due to his handicap and his learning disability. However, Richard is doing a great job of adapting to his independence. His outlook was very dim and now he has a shot at a perfectly normal life.

Jerry Hobby, Richard Rao, and JohnPaul Jourard (President of the Sharpstown Rotary Club). Richard is receiving an award for his outstanding achievment for graduating High School. The Sharpstown Rotary Club gave him the suit he is wearing.


Jerry Hobby is a board member of Project Hope of Houston and a member of the Sharpstown Rotary Club. Jerry is also the CEO of Texas Business Technologies. He is currently mentoring another young man and we expect to see his success story here soon.

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