Holt adoptee Amy Corey is fast becoming a country music star. Signed with Grammy-nominated producer Kent Wells — as well as the publicity firm Derailed Development — she now lives in Nashville where she works as a recording artist and songwriter. But long before Nashville, Amy was a Vietnamese adoptee growing up in a small town in Oregon. And every summer from age 9-17, she attended Holt Adoptee Camp — an experience she describes as the highlight of her every summer.
I was born on May 28, 1997, and was adopted six months later from Da Nang, Vietnam. My sister, who is two years older than me, was adopted from China. I was brought to America and lived in Cleveland, Ohio, until 2000. Our family then moved to Ashland, Oregon, where I grew up and lived until I was 18. Three months after graduating high school, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue my music career. I’m still living in Nashville, where I am now a recording artist and songwriter.
My parents told me at a very young age that I was adopted. They began telling me when I was 3; they never hid it from me or my sister. They helped me understand it all throughout the years. Being 6 months old when I was adopted, I don’t remember much and I obviously didn’t fully understand everything until much later.
It was very important to my parents that we celebrated both my and my sister’s culture. We’d always celebrate Tet and Chinese New Year. Growing up, I always cared about and was interested in Vietnam. My family and I went to China in 2008 for my older sister, and we were supposed to go to Vietnam two years later — but couldn’t go due to a family emergency.
But I tried to stay connected with my culture and always tried to give back in different ways.
I’ve always been somewhat curious about my birth mom. I would go through phases where I’d be really curious and would want to learn more and wanted to meet her, and then phases where I really didn’t care what happened. I knew some people who were part of my adoption agency, so when I was younger, I would bother them and try to sneak information about my birth mom when I got curious. I now know a lot about her.
At the moment, I am not taking the time to look for my birth mom. But I am open-minded and mentally preparing, knowing that my career has the potential to open that door.
My older sister and a good friend of ours went to Holt Adoptee Camp a year before I started going. She loved it and my parents thought it would be good if I went as well. I started going when I was 9 and continued to go every year until I was 17, when I got to be a CIT (counselor in training). To this day, I am still the reigning queen for the “questions game” — a game we would play at E-square, which was the entertainment part of the night. You’d have two people compete against each other, and you would basically have to ask questions to each other, and whoever hesitated or answered the question lost. I never lost, which is hilarious to think about.
Every year, Holt Camp was the highlight of my summer — it was always amazing and fun! I always made new friends, I got to see old friends that I only saw at camp, and I always learned so much from them and my time at camp.
Growing up, I always knew that being an adoptee was okay. I was from a small town in Oregon where everyone knew everyone. Although they may have teased me about a ton of other stuff, I was never ashamed or teased about being adopted. My time at camp opened my eyes to how many of my friends and counselors were, however, discriminated against and teased for being adopted, Asian or different in any way.
I always talk, sing and write about honesty and how being honest and being yourself is okay. No matter what people think, don’t ever change yourself for them and never let them bring you down. Being different is something very special. My years at Holt Camp definitely inspired me to make a difference and stand up for diversity — not only in the music industry, but in the world.
I am still good friends with a handful of my old counselors and fellow campers. We all share so many hilarious and fun memories, but they always surprise me with the funniest and most embarrassing stories about me throughout the years that I have forgotten.
I recently asked one of my closest friends from Holt, who was a counselor when I was a camper, if there were any bad stories about me that I should be aware of. He told me that there wasn’t anything terrible, but that I was just rebellious and funny because I would never listen. Not because I didn’t respect my counselors or was a bad child, but just because I was so competitive and wanted to prove people wrong when someone said “you can’t.” That’s something I never grew out of.
He always thought it was more funny than frustrating. He would tell me, “Amy, you can’t catch that snake” or “Amy, you can’t climb that tree” or “Amy, don’t eat that berry, you will get sick,” and I would see it as a challenge and do it. It’s stories like that one that make me laugh so hard and remember all the amazing memories and experiences I had at Holt. From laying out in the sun, playing basketball or playing cards, to doing all the activities the counselors planned, there was never a dull moment.
To see my fellow campers now as counselors is truly amazing! Holt Camp was always something I looked forward to each summer. It was a very bittersweet moment when I couldn’t go anymore due to my career schedule. But I am so happy that Holt and I have been able to partner together and I get to return to my old camp this year!
I can’t put into words how special Holt Adoptee Camp is to me and to the world. Holt brings people together through their adoption program and it’s truly amazing. And every adoptee and their parents should know about Holt Camp. To have a camp that brings everyone together with such a unique similarity between them is something that I think is invaluable.
I went to Holt Camp for so many years and they saw me through every stage of my life. When I was dealing with personal problems, everyone was always there for me. That support meant so much. And for them to know and respect me at my worst, to now knowing me after overcoming it all and to be where I am today in my life and career, is extraordinary and more than I could ever ask for.
I hope every adoptee, no matter what age, knows that everything they feel and struggle with is okay. It’s okay to not be interested in your birth parents and it’s okay to not want to think about it, and if you don’t want to know, it’s okay. But it’s also okay to ask questions, and it’s okay to want to know more.
Holt is there for you — no matter what. If you want information or if you just need a friend, Holt is there. It doesn’t matter whether you were adopted domestically or internationally, whether you were adopted through Holt or another agency, you are accepted for who you are. That’s something that all adoptees and everyone should be told — no matter what you look like, and no matter where you are born, you are accepted for who you are and that you can do anything in this world.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Holt and everyone for all the years that they were there for me. From support at camp to the overwhelming support now, I am beyond grateful. I’m so honored to be able to share my story here with you all and hope to continue sharing it as it goes on. To Holt and every adoptee, you have a special place in my heart, and I am here for you. Always.
Amy Corey | Nashville, Tennessee