Chen's Story

I recently asked one of our teachers if she wanted to share a story with you about any of her students. “Oh, yes!” she replied. She has many to choose from but chose this one. As I read her story,  I realized this wasn’t just Chen’s story. This a story shared by many teenagers across our country. The difficulties they face daily are more recently being brought to our attention so that solutions can be developed and lives changed.

“Chen” wants to be an ordinary teenager. But not being fluent in English and being small made him a target to be bullied in school. At age 10, Chen found himself in his older brothers’ gang, feeling protected and accepted , and he thought his problems were solved.

Chen enrolled in Emerson High School’s Contract-Based program in late September 2016 as a Junior. Not by choice but because he was “booted out” of the local high school for fighting and gang-related activities. It came as no surprise that Chen was also behind on his credits.

The first day he arrived, he was agitated and defensive. His teacher “Joanne” wanted him to feel relaxed and welcome and gave him a welcome gift bag that Youthnet board of directors put together for all the students. Chen was impressed. Then, the breakthrough moment came when Joanne gave him a card to write his dreams on and he shared that he wanted to be a mechanic one day and that in his spare time he liked to draw. Joanne immediately put him in photo and art classes with a male teacher. She desperately wanted him to have some positive adult role models.

As Joanne continued working with Chen, she noticed that any subject with reading was hard for him. She came up with little techniques to help him learn and he was very receptive to her help. Chen completed six classes in his first semester. He earned four A’s and 2 B’s! He even finished all his classes before the semester ended and was eager to start the next semester early. He is excited about being able to take another art class as well! And, he’s catching up.

Chen interacts well with his teachers at Emerson and is beginning to have positive interactions with some of the other students as well. His parents can’t believe how much he has changed.  They say that Chen now likes to stay home and study!

Chen knows if he can continue on this path, that there are many doors that will open to him that will help him become who he wants to be “when he grows up.” But for now, Chen is focusing on his grades and just being an ordinary teenager, as best as possible.

Your support provides hope and an opportunity for a better future for Chen and other students just like Chen. Thank you!

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