A: Well, my parents came from Vietnam in the 1980s. I was born in California, and we moved to Mountlake Terrace when I was 2. My dad died from lung cancer when I was 8.
So my mother, Yen Dang, raised me and my older siblings by herself until a few years ago when she suffered a stroke while in surgery for an aneurism. My mom is bed-bound now and can't work. Her left side is paralyzed. My siblings and I take shifts caring for her.
Q: Wow. How do you feel about that?
A: I believe I have a lot more responsibility than most other kids. It would be easy to feel like life is unfair, but my mom has cared for us for so many years. It's our turn to take care of her.
Q: That doesn't leave you much time for anything else but school and homework, does it?
A: Well, I played tennis all four years of high school and was captain of the team this year. We live in a lower-middle-class community where not a lot of people play tennis, so our team was never that good. But we did our best and had a lot of fun.
I also was involved with ASB, but it became too time consuming. I like to volunteer at the Food Lifeline food bank and I've done tutoring for other students, and I need to get back into that.
Q: What classes do you have this year?
A: Right now I have AP (advanced placement) statistics, AP physics -- last year I had AP literature, AP calculus and AP chemistry -- and this year I also have humanities, art and personal finance classes.
I have a 3.96 gpa. I got a B-plus in history last year, but my teacher in that class, Michole Mattix, is one of my favorites. I also like my chemistry teacher, John Traxler. They have been good friends and good mentors. Their support and help mean a lot to me.
Q: Where are you going to school next year?
A: Well, I wanted to go to Caltech (California Institute of Technology), but I have priorities at home, so I am hoping to be accepted at the University of Washington. I'll live at home, continue to help with my mom and commute into Seattle.
Q: What will you study?
A: Chemistry. I want to be a chemical engineer or a pharmacist.
Q: When you're not busy, what do you do to relax?
A: Hang out with friends, sit around or go get food, play video games. I guess my favorite game is League of Legends.
Q: Since your siblings are all older, you must be an uncle, too. How is that?
A: Well, there are pros and cons. I know for sure that I don't want to be a father anytime soon, but the kids are cute and I love them.
Q: What is your ultimate goal in life?
A: I'd like to be known at the end of my life for having contributed to our world or having helped somebody. Maybe make a medicine or help with some world problem.
Q: Is that what you said in your college applications?
A: Well, yes, but I mean it. I also want to help my family. Right now we get by, but it's tough. It would be nice to provide my family with a few luxuries. My family has done a lot for me and I want to give something back to them.
Q: Do you speak Vietnamese? Have you ever been there?
A: My mother doesn't speak English. So we speak Vietnamese at home. My mother took me to Vietnam a couple times. It is so humid there. We visited extended family members and my mom donated money to charities. My mom is amazing and very kind.
Q: Do your fellow students know about your family?
A: I'm a very open book, but a lot of people don't know much about my mom and dad. After her stroke, my mom was in a coma for three months. We were really scared. It was a tough time and that's when we starting taking shifts to care for her.
She is much better now. She can eat and move on her right side. We do all of her basic physical care, including giving her shots.
We also entertain her.
A: We tell her stories and jokes, and we sing to her. It's not easy at night sometimes when she can't sleep. But we get through it.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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