This I Believe

Phillip - USA
Entered on December 5, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I’m a Houston native. However, my parents immigrated to America when communism took control of their homeland, Vietnam. My parents came to this country with nothing and we struggled financially from the start. My dad contributes the most to our family’s income but with a sacrifice. He works the night shift so I hardly spend time with him because I have to attend school during the day. While growing up, my parents taught me the value of hard work and stressed the importance of education.

During my early school years, I was a dedicated student who often made honor roll and perfect attendance. However when I got into high school, I started to slack off because I felt like nobody appreciated my hard work. As an immature youngster, I assumed my parents didn’t care because of their work schedule; they had little time left for me.

As a child, I usually spent a lot of time playing basketball around my neighborhood. When I walked home from school one day, I was confronted by gang members who recognized me from playing basketball. They offered me marijuana and I smoked for the first time because I didn’t care. From that day on, I started abusing drugs because I saw it as a way of relieving my stress. A few months later, I was introduced to drug dealers who lived down my street. At that time, they were my mentors who also encouraged me to stay in school and work hard. And although they gave me plenty of positive advice, they were also hypocrites. I decided to follow the dealers’ footsteps and they supplied me the drugs to sell.

I established a reputation as a drug dealer among my peers. The word spread quickly around the small school and soon I was reported by a boy who got caught with drugs himself. I was expelled from my school district after my assistant principle found drugs in my pockets. A week after my seventeenth birthday, I was considered an adult in the state of Texas. I was incarcerated in jail for possession of controlled substances in a drug free zone. While waiting in the jail’s holding tanks, I told the other accused criminals my story. One inmate understood what I was going through and he told me, “You’re not a bad person. Once they let you out, you go prove everyone wrong.”

After serving my time, I enrolled into the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program to continue my education because I wasn’t allowed back into my home school. During my seven months there, I recalled the importance of hard work and education my parents have taught me. I quitted selling and abusing drugs and worked two jobs instead. After I finished my time at the alternative school, I returned to my school district but at a different school for my senior year. I continued to work hard in school and started applying for college. I only filled out one college application and it was for the University of Houston. I was astonished when I got accepted.

I’m the first person in my family who graduated from high school and continued on to college. I changed my life around and I encourage others to do so too. I realized life is unfair and there’s no easy way out. After learning from all my mistakes, I believe education and hard work is the best option for my success. My other option will only lead me back to incarceration. This is my first semester in college and just the beginning of my story. This I believe.