Jessica Bun-11th Grade

My mother is a wonderful raconteur. Her gift through storytelling, though, is not fabricating fables or telling tall tales. Her gift is a gift of passion and appreciation for life. She survived the Khmer Rouge, the horrific genocide in Cambodia’s history that killed approximately 1.7 million innocent people.

When I was old enough to understand these deeper stories, details were not spared as Mother recounted her verbal memoir. Her father, mother, and all nine younger siblings died of starvation, illness, and execution. Despite this dark period in her life, my mother still keeps going. I have learned from her example to be hard working and strong. We live with our pasts and must grow from them.

When the Khmer Rouge began, my mother was sixteen, my current age. Living through those traumatic experiences, she grew up too quickly. Yet, that is what has shaped her into the beautiful woman who is my mother.

Ever since my parents immigrated to the United States, all they have done was work to earn a living and have a family. They both have taught me hard work and persistence through sacrifices that they have made for the sake of our family’s survival and happiness. This encouraged me as a child to want to be a pediatrician and attend Harvard.

My choices have changed since then, but my mentality has not. It was not until I was in the seventh grade and my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer that I decided what I truly wanted to do. He is now cancer-free, but that does not deter me from wanting to become a medical researcher. This past summer only re-enforced that state of mind.

My brother, Justin, who was nineteen-years-young, was diagnosed with leukemia. He passed away three days later. As I type these words, I feel so cold and lifeless. I miss Justin every day, and it hurts now just the same as the first day.

It pains me equally as much seeing my mother get through her days. Through everything she has experienced in her incredible life, I cannot bear to imagine the heartache she suffers as a mother who lost a child. It is the unconscious strength she shows that inspires me. It is that strength that looks at his pictures that help me. It motivates me to stay strong, and to become a medical researcher.

My mother enlivens a part of me that wants to help contribute to the world. I want to save people from pain, loss, and sadness. That goal, I believe, can be achieved by becoming a medical researcher.

The role of young females is evolving with women gaining more leadership positions and holding more occupations previously filled by men. I feel that this trend will continue until they are held equally. By becoming a medical researcher, I will work hard to find cures for painful and fatal diseases. I hope to make my mother as proud of me as I am of her and her stunning strength.

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