Young Man Finds Opportunity in the U.S. Through Idaho Labor Program

Peter Moats is funny, resilient and a true survivor, says Debi Middlekoop, workforce consultant at the Idaho Department of Labor in Moscow.

The 21-year-old Peter was born in China and was abandoned at a young age. A woman who became “Grandma” found him alone in a city of more than 8 million people in the South China province of Guangdong. With her help, the two lived on the streets for a few years. When Grandma became ill, she took Peter to an orphanage where he stayed for a few more years until he learned Grandma had died.

Peter’s story took several twists and turns over the years before he ended up in Idaho where he eventually connected with Middlekoop and Monica Jones at the Department of Labor and he began to see some of his dreams become reality.

With their help, Peter was enrolled in a work experience program that eventually helped him fulfill his dream of joining the National Guard. Through the program, part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Peter started working for the city of Moscow in the water department and later in the street department.

“It was great. Everyone there taught me so much, while making it a fun place to work,” he said.

His journey to Idaho, however, involved some work. When Peter was 11, Peter was adopted by a family in New Mexico where he lived for a couple of months, but it wasn’t working out, he said.

From there, he ended up in New York for about a month and was then adopted by a family in Idaho. Though Peter attended public school for a short time in New York, he was mostly home-schooled.

“I had to leave my home when I turned 18, so I went to the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy in Pierce so I could become a soldier and complete my GED. When I graduated from the academy I was basically couch hopping, staying wherever I could, but I always tried to earn my keep,” he said.

Jones and Middlekoop helped connect Peter to local resources for housing and other services and even helped him work on English language skills. He names the two Labor staff, counselors, teachers and sergeants at the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy, and his supervisors at the city of Moscow among the many people who have helped him achieve his goals.

“Each one…had a part in helping me get where I am today, and all taught me and cared about me. They are like family,” Peter said.


Peter, center, gets hoisted up by his Moscow street department co-workers. “Everyone taught me so much, while making it a fun place to work,” he said.


Peter enjoys fulfilling his duties as a National Guard soldier and looks forward to a future that might include travel and seeing new places.

“I would like to go to college someday and I know I can. After all, this is America the land of opportunity right?” Peter said with a grin.

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