The nameless Cambodian boy

Alhambra Source and real estate developers Sam and Jackie Wong organized a scholarship in May that asked college and high school students from Alhambra to answer questions about their name, heritage, and growing up a child of immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley. The selected essays will be published once a week. The piece below is written by San Gabriel High School graduate Dara Dan. The 18 year old won publication for his essay about battling poverty in Cambodia. Read Dan's essay below and check out the other winning essays we've published.

His life could have been taken away in a split second. He was walking, or wandering to be exact, around the street recklessly while dusting each car as it waited for the stoplight to flash green. The boy, shirtless and shoeless, could not be any older than seven. Although ignored by many of the drivers, he was determined to get their attention, persisting in getting those few to help his family financially. Because of his struggle for survival, the boy no longer had the opportunity to get an education, to reach his full potential. Unfortunately, he was among one of the many others. 

It was not long ago when I too lived in Cambodia. When I visit, I notice things never seem to improve for the commoners. Many people continue to face poverty. Being born and raised there for nine years, I know that many families do not put a major focus on education and community service due to the lack of opportunity.

I was no different. Every day I went to school with no purpose, with no idea of growing. Living in such a society, I did not realize how much I could do for myself and for others. My ambition was simply unknowingly suppressed. We all grew accustomed to life with no hope. 

Dara Dan and friends at the San Gabriel HIgh School Homecoming game.

As a result of my encounter with the nameless little boy, I returned to the United States this summer with a mission to expand resources for this young generation of Cambodians. I am determined to bring help to these children, give them the education they deserve, and to inspire them to believe for the first time.

I want to create an educational institution that will invite people from other nations and cultures to Cambodia. This will enable them to learn about Cambodia and share their differences with the Cambodian community. This development will help construct a reciprocal process of growth. Such an institution will then provide a platform for novelty and advancement in addition to emphasizing society’s need to enable each individual to make a difference.

I fully understand that my goal for the future will not be easy to attain. Nonetheless, the process of developing plans is essential to success. By sharing my dream, I have taken the first step in acknowledging the issue, making my dream into a goal. From there, I can further seek the help from those who share a similar experience, creating a stronger unity for the cause. By pursuing a higher education, I plan to conduct a study on the cause in-depth and to organize aid for the people. Reflecting on how much I have grown to believe in myself, I want to devote my time and effort to help those in need fulfill their own potential in life.

Essay was lightly edited and condensed. 

Read the other winning essays: 

"Stages of shame: A young Chinese American's story" by Shannon Ho"From rebellion to respect" by Yvonne Lee"Latina, Chicana, mestizo: The labels that define us" by Vanessa Solis"'I am a survivor'" by Jessica Ramos"Relating to superheros: A young immigrant and her secret identity" by Valerie Cabral

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