My parents are immigrants from China. My mom only went to middle school and then had to work to support the family. My dad finished high school. They met and had my sister and I. To create a better life for us, they moved us to Hawaii because they thought it would be easier since we had family already living here.

Because my parents do not speak English and have a limited education, they had to find jobs that didn’t require a lot of communication. My dad became an assistant cook and my mom does odd jobs cleaning people’s houses to help make ends meet. Growing up I’d see my parents struggle monthly to figure out how to translate the bills from English into Chinese so that they could pay it. They would use a translator that would take hours on end. When I became older, I took over the family finances to alleviate this stress from them. That’s when I became knowledgeable about our financial situation.

We live paycheck to paycheck. Because we also have a looming debt, we pay the monthly minimum so that we can use the monies for other necessities. While time spent with the family is our greatest joy, due to the nature of my parent’s working so many hours, I have also taken on the responsibility of raising my younger sister and cooking the family meals. When my parents come home, I want them to be able to relax and not have to worry about taking more care of my sister and I.

When my dad’s motorcycle got stolen, this caused more debt to us.  The good news was that my dad recently got a small raise. The bad news is that it actually had an adverse effect on us. Because of his minimal increase, we no longer qualify for food stamps and it cut our household energy assistance by half.  I don’t understand why his hard work to get ahead actually makes us struggle more because our total household spendable income actually went down.

My wish is to go to college, yet my family has been realistic with me informing me that they don’t have money to send me to college. What do I do? Go to college knowing that it will cost money but have a better outcome for our family’s future or get a full-time job after I graduate from high school to help pay off our family’s debt, knowing that I won’t get as good a job as I would with college? I just don’t know.

Despite all this, our family continues to work hard and look forward to the future. I look at this as an opportunity to want more in life. I am sharing my story so that others know that there is hope out there.