August 19, 2022

Paragons for POE South Bay

Three of the POE Organization mentees with their Paragon backpacks. From left to right is Daisy, Jackie, and Alfonso.

Giving back to the community has always been an important aspect of TOM BIHN. Back in April, our team donated several Paragon bags to the mentees of the POE Scholarship Organization of South Bay. The Pursuit of Excellence, or POE, Scholarship organization provides support to low-income, hard-working students, helping them fulfill their dreams of earning a college degree.

The South Bay location is a new chapter of POE, started in 2016 by Donna Guldimann and Rosemary Rossi that has developed a relationship with Lincoln High School in San Jose, Pioneer High School in San Jose, and Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos. 

Here are some of the mentees’ stories and future plans:

Amanda graduated in May from Pacific University with a degree in English. Amanda faced medical issues in college, as well as the challenges that being a foster child includes, but persevered to obtain her goals. Throughout college, Amanda worked at the campus library and is leaning towards continuing in a public library in Portland, Oregon. Below is a photo of Amanda with her mentor.

Amanda (left) and her mentor


Alicia started her college career at The University of San Francisco in nursing. However, Alicia decided to change her major to Sociology after attending a class trip to the Mexican border to work with immigrants being held. There she developed a dream to become a Social Worker and was recently accepted at Columbia University’s graduate school in social work. Alicia has been an A student all 4 years of school and the POE organization is very proud of this first gen young woman.



Daisy is the pride of her family, being the first in the family to go to college. Partway through her college career, Daisy switched to a business major. Despite taking an extra year to graduate, she was able to supplement grants and keep her loans as reasonable as possible. After graduation, Daisy accepted a job in sales for a start-up. Daisy has wonderful interpersonal skills and smile! Below is a photo of Daisy with her mentor (and good friend) Jill.


Daisy (right) and her mentor


Alfonso knew right away what he wanted to study in college – Finance at San Jose State University. Alfonso understands the importance of networking and connected with a rep from KPMG at the school career fair. Through this contact, Alfonso secured work experience each summer before being offered a full-time position during his senior year. Below is a photo of Alfonso with his mentor Tom.


Alfonso (left) and his mentor 

Jackie just graduated from UC Santa Barbra with a degree in Biology with plans to become a Physician’s Assistant. She is taking this year to work in a clinical setting to receive the needed patient contact hours, before applying to PA school. She is a first-generation college student and received A’s through the entirety of her college career. 

Jackie at graduation


Anyce received her degree in biology from San Francisco State University this spring. She is continuing her journey at SFSU to complete her Ph.D., with a focus on research. Between her junior and senior year, Anyce was selected and supported to spend the summer at The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, NY. Here she was able to work in one of the labs in her field of interest. She is a very hard-working, focused first-gen student.


Anyce at graduation


Mariela recently graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Spanish. She is off to Sacramento State University to earn her Master’s degree and credentials to become a high school Spanish teacher. Mariela was a straight-A student at UC Davis while maintaining a job as well. Here are a few words from Mariela:

I plan to teach and give back to my community the aid and support that I once received from a teacher myself. As a long-term goal, I want to get involved in the education policy field as I believe that still there are many positive changes to be made for schools and districts to become better, safe, inclusive, and just environments for all students and their families.

Thank you for everything,


Mariela with her Paragon

Congratulations to all of the graduates and good luck in all of your future endeavors!



BethC - August 24, 2022

Thanks for supporting this inspirational organization!

Nadya - August 23, 2022

Congratulations to all the POE mentees! They are all just brilliant!

G42 - August 20, 2022

What a great organization to support – Congrats to all the POE mentees!

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.