Two young women in graduation robes smile and hold each other, one Asian and the other Latina

I Grew Up Fast

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By Joeli Alis Santiago

Wendy Cheung’s story

My name is Wendy Cheung. I was born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan. I lived in an apartment with my mom, dad, and older brother. It all started when my family moved from Guangdong, China, to America.

My parents didn’t have much back then and my brother was struggling in school because he didn’t know English. My dad was the only who was working and providing for our family, since my mom was pregnant with me at the time. Not long after, I was born, and my mom started working at a hotel as a housekeeper. Since my parents were both working and my brother had to go to school, I was practically raised by an old lady living in our neighborhood; I call her grandma. She raised me until I was about 5 years old. 

I was getting an education, my brother was in high school, and my parents were both working; it was perfect… it was perfect until I was in 2nd grade. My mom was hospitalized, my brother would stay at the hospital with her, and my dad was working and after he got off work, he would come shower and then go straight to the hospital. I was basically living alone. I had to learn how to cook, clean, and keep up with my schoolwork. There was no one there to take care of me or watch over me.

I had to live like that for about 6 months. Due to this, I became who I am today, independent. Whenever I had a problem or when I was unhappy, I kept that to myself and dealt with it myself. I never once had a girl talk with mom or even told my brother what was going on. My family didn’t know I was being bullied.

Thankfully, the bullying stopped when I moved to a different school. Life became easier for me. My family and I are still living in the same apartment in Pontiac. Again, life was perfect. My mom was healing, my dad was working, I was in middle school and my brother was in college. 

One night my mom’s wrist was hurting, so my brother took her to the hospital. It was just me and my dad at home. I was upstairs asleep, and my dad was in the living room watching T.V. Then, three armed robbers busted into our house. One of them held my dad at gun point while the other two came upstairs and started to steal. My brother and my mom weren’t home yet.

After about two minutes I heard my brother and mom getting out of the car and came up to the front door. As my brother opened the door, he had a gun pointed at him. The two robbers ran out the house with our stuff, while the third one stayed behind to steal some more stuff. Luckily, my brother was athletic and took down one of them. It was a girl who was 16 years old at the time.

The police arrived and we were able to get our stuff back and the robbers were put in prison. It was because of this night, my parents decided that it was time to start looking for other houses. We eventually found a house near Oakland University. We bought the house and now we’re living Auburn Hills. 

Life, now, is going smoothly. I am in college, my brother is working, and so are both of my parents. My family, including me, had a really tough life living in Pontiac. At first, I didn’t want to move because I grew up in that apartment and I thought I was going to feel empty after moving.

However, that is not the case. After moving all of our stuff to this house, it felt like home. I felt safe and relieved. Auburn Hills is definitely a lot safer than Pontiac. The roads are better too. Although I had a hard time growing up in Pontiac, I realized that it made me even stronger than I was before. I learned how to think for myself and do what is best for me.

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