2017 Winner

Ashley Jenemar Menguito

Vallejo, CA

Like many immigrant families, my family sought out a better life coming to America. I was six years old when my grandmother felt the dire need to petition for my parents, my four older brothers, and myself to move to California. Given that the Philippines wasn’t the ideal place to raise a family, especially in the impoverished neighborhood we used to live in, my parents agreed. So, a month after I turned seven, my family and I moved to the United States.

I expected the move to be smooth-sailing and for me to easily adjust, but I didn’t. The most difficult part of the move personally for me, was learning a new language. Nowadays, English is taught to students in the Philippines, but when I lived there, they did not teach me any English. When I came to America, I struggled with the new language enough to be embarrassed to talk. Childish as it may seem, that’s exactly how it felt when I was scared to talk in class because the other students would make fun of me.

However, it was this mere factor of not wanting to stand out and be made fun of that made me work on my English in and out of school. From this, I gained the skill of perseverance. I would ask for help at school from my teachers. I would write in a journal at home, practicing by writing stories. Eventually, I challenged myself by taking advanced English classes in school. I was not giving up until I knew the language perfectly and could write in it as well as my other classmates. Some days I still feel like I don’t know as much and can’t adequately express myself in English as well as my native friends, but English has increasingly become my best subject.

As for my family, the move to a different country affected them much differently. My parents already knew English and so did my older brothers, so they had other problems to face with the move. One of these problems was the difficulty in getting a steady lifestyle set in place. My family did not have the connections we needed in order for my parents to get good-paying jobs right away. My father went from job-to-job for years trying to provide for us, while my mom was jobless for a while and then ended up working in fast food for eight years. We relied on canned food and the most accessible food in order to survive and second-hand clothes. My brothers did not end up going to college because of this. Even now, the financial difficulty still affects my family. Though less prominent, it is still there.

The problems from moving came at an unexpected wave as I grew up. While I was trying to do my best in school, my family dealt with other issues that soon started to affect me too. The financial difficulties we face, caused tensions at home. These tensions caused many fights around me and did not fare my mother very well because it gave her anxiety. At one point, my eldest brother died from colon cancer. Doctors believed it was due to the unhealthy lifestyle he lived because he only ate and drank the cheapest and most accessible foods to him, since he couldn’t afford it.

There were so many challenges that my family has had to endure due to the move across the Pacific, however I believe these challenges have only made us stronger…The move made me want to change my life for a brighter future, pushed me to do my best in school, and inspired me to help those in need.

There were so many challenges that my family has had to endure due to the move across the Pacific, however I believe these challenges have only made us stronger. I know for a fact, that it has made me stronger personally. Without these challenges, I don’t think I would have matured in order to take care of my mother when she was sick. I gained a sense of will and independence seeing what my family has gone through these past 12 years that we have lived in America.

The move made me want to change my life for a brighter future, pushed me to do my best in school, and inspired me to help those in need. I spent three of my four years in high school in a program dedicated to helping around my city to give back to those in need. I did things like helping pack food at the Salvation Army and helping at the silent auctions to raise money. In addition, the move taught me the value of taking every opportunity life throws at me because it may the best one there is. I’ve come to realize how fortunate I was to be able to move to the United States in order to have a brighter future, compared to other kids from where I came from. I am stronger and independent and determined due to the move, and this is how the move to a different country affected me.

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