By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – When at least 250 people gathered May 3, on the lawn of the Otsego County Courthouse to show support for the area’s Asian-American population, and then stayed for an hour to listen to speeches during a rainstorm, many of the speakers marveled that the rally was organized by a 15-year Cooperstown Central School freshman, Cate Bohler.
They were not alone in their surprise. Bohler and her mom, Jeannine Webster, told The Freeman’s Journal on Friday, May 14, that they were surprised, too.
“I kind of feel like I didn’t really realize what I was doing,” Bohler said. “I think it was when I was hearing the speakers speaking and then it started raining and people stayed mostly.”
“All of the young people involved learned a powerful lesson about community,” Webster said. “Looking back I am not really sure how it came together.”
An early meeting, in the basement of the Cooperstown Baptist Church where the participants could spread out, Bohler’s spark of an idea turned into the rally, to coincide with May’s designation as Asian American and Pacific Island Heritge Month. A small group of friends helped her, including a few Asian friends.
“They were full of thoughtful ideas,” Webster said. “It took on momentum of its own.”
Adopted from China, Bohler has grown up in Cooperstown, a place she said is not very diverse, but has always been kind and supportive to her and her friends. It was the idea – at a time when violence against people of Asian descent is spiking – that her friends could experience harm someplace else later in their lives that caused her to take action, she said.
Despite her leadership and thoughtfulness this spring, Bohler’s normal life is like most Cooperstown teens. She’s athletic and artistic and adjusting to the pandemic and its changes like everyone else. This month she is running track and preparing for finals.
Athletically, she also plays soccer and does summer crew on Otsego Lake, but she sounds more excited when she talks about music. Bohler plays clarinet and violin, does school band and orchestra. She is a part of the Lit Team, Quiz Team and Battle of the Books clubs. She said she also likes to write, paint and draw.
Bohler said she has not begun thinking about colleges and careers. “It’s too early for that,” she said.
Bohler has a cat and a dog; she is definitely a cat person, she said.
Bohler will be vaccinated soon, she said, and she and her mom are looking forward to a vacation soon. The last time they were able to travel they went to New York City for the Lunar New Year celebration in January 2020.
Looking back on an amazing month, mother and daughter said they were moved by the show of support Bohler and her friends inspired and the kind words Otsego County officials spoke about her.
“I was definitely honored and very surprised,” Bohler said.
Webster, who teaches at SUNY Oneonta, said she was touched a former student of hers came up from New York City for the event.
“I had a student who was from China. She was teaching Cate Mandarin for a while,” Webster said. “She’s back in the city, but she took a couple of vacation days to come up for the rally.
“It was really inspiring,” Webster said.