August 04, 2014

Anita refused to be deprived of her education

Both of Anita’s parents were denied education by the Khmer Rouge during the widespread genocide of the Cambodian people. They moved to the United States for a fresh start; however, their lack of a high school education has kept them in difficult low-paying jobs. Rising out of the cycle of poverty, Anita will be attending UCLA in the fall to study biology. She hopes to become a pediatrician and return to her old neighborhood to help low-income children.
Read on to see how Anita’s troubled childhood is inspiring her to make a difference in the world.

“I know what life is without an education. The tragedies in my culture and the hardships in my family have inspired me to take advantage of and persevere in every opportunity that is given to me.

As a young girl, I remember my mom explaining to me that we could not afford the doll that I so desperately begged for. I remember my parents waking up early in the morning and coming home from work late. My mom struggles every day at her salon, Style Cuts, but she never shows her troubles. My dad currently faces future unemployment in his factory at Black & Decker, and has never once tried to discourage me with his sorrow. 

My parents, who are of Cambodian descent, were shut off from education due to the Khmer Rouge, which is the genocide inflicted by the Communist Party upon the Cambodian people. Though they survived the war, they were deprived of a high school education. Once they came to America, their lack of education forced them to obtain a job with hard labor and low pay. But once they had a family, my parents made sure that they would instill their experiences and culture into their children.

I grew up in a faded blue home surrounded by tall, steel black gates. I have, unfortunately, grown accustomed to waking up in the middle of the night to helicopter lights, sirens and news report teams. Due to our family’s financial situation, I cannot move from this gang-infested neighborhood. Despite living in this community for 16 years, I still do not feel secure. At times, I found myself dwelling over these hardships, and it was evident through my negative attitude. During holiday gatherings, my family would dread driving through the neighborhood. I became extremely ashamed of my home when others would criticize it. However, I know that my family’s current state will only motivate me even more to succeed in college.

I have only grown stronger from this negative environment. Now, when obstacles arise, I try to solve them in a positive attitude. I am extremely satisfied with the person I have become through the lessons that I have learned. I have learned to focus on the positive aspects of situations. My neighborhood taught me to become an independent individual. Rather than dwelling over the negative, I chose to look at this situation as a motivation to strive for a better life.

Through my family, background and culture, I was able to realize my strengths as an individual to persevere through my troubles and negative surroundings. My parents made sure I am fully aware of the limitations placed on individuals with low education. I have experienced a life of poverty, and I am extremely motivated to overcome these obstacles. Most of all, my family has taught me to persevere in times of distress. As a future pediatrician, I hope to give back and make a difference in the poverty stricken communities. Though I have undergone many adversities, I only grew stronger from it.”

For more information on the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, its scholars, mentors and donation opportunities, please visit its webpage