It will be a great holiday for May
Saowalux "May" Karthip and her daughter,
at the BeachHouse. SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT
BRADENTON BEACH – The Fourth of July is a purely American holiday and this year, Island resident Saowalux "May" Karthip will celebrate the Fourth as an American for the first time.
That’s because the Thai born BeachHouse restaurant employee will become a citizen in a ceremony at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando on Tuesday, July 3. She will spend the rest of the day and the Fourth of July with her four-year-old daughter, Irada, touring another amusement park. The extra day’s hotel stay and Magic Kingdom tickets are a gift from her employer.
Getting her citizenship is the result of some good luck and a lot of hard work on the part of Karthip and her boss, BeachHouse manager Mike Shannon.
"She came to me a couple of months ago and said she was going to take the exam to become a citizen," Shannon said. "She asked for my help because she didn’t understand the answers. It was a pleasure to help her."
May’s long trek from Southeast Asia to America started in 2001 when she lost her job.
"I went on a game show and won the equivalent of $50,000," she said. "There were six celebrity contestants and me, and I was the winner."
She purchased a ticket to the United States and looked for work in West Palm Beach. She got a job that took long hours and did not pay much and after a year, she moved to Key West for three months and then New Port Richey for three months. After finding out how bad the pay was, she moved to North Carolina, where her world was closing in on her. Pregnant, running out of money and unemployed, she resisted the urge to move back to Thailand.
"I thought about my baby being born here and decided to stay," she said.
With the help of an acquaintance, she went back to Thailand after the baby was born, but returned to the US, landing this time in Sarasota and finally, in 2005, on Anna Maria Island, where she got the job at the BeachHouse, "They were wonderful," she said of her new employers. "They never let me down and they helped me a lot.
"I will work here until I die," she added. "They have my heart."
As for Shannon helping her pass the test, she said he is the reason she passed, "When I learned that I had passed, I called him immediately," she said. "He is my mentor."
In August, May’s daughter, Irada, enters kindergarten at Anna Maria Elementary School. Because she was born in the United States, the beautiful little girl with the big smile is already a citizen. Now that her mother is becoming one, the two will always remember the Fourth of July as an extra special American holiday.