Interviewing Derrick: A Story of Resilience, From Poverty to Harvard

June 20, 2024

With all the socioeconomic challenges he faced as a young adult, Derrick Ngo would have disappeared in the eyes of the American system. I interviewed Derrick, an Asian American student growing up in poverty about his upbringing, from poor student to Harvard graduate.

Growing up in poverty is an often condemning status that sets many Americans up for failure. Looking at Derrick’s situation, success would not have been a likely outcome for him. Explaining his childhood, Derrick said: “My biggest challenges while growing up were lack of access to quality food, healthcare, and educational resources. Basically, if I got sick I didn’t get treatment. So I had to figure out life one hundred percent on my own.” Looking back on his circumstances he states: “I did not receive as much access to opportunities and support as many of my peers.”

Despite the chance of success not being in his favor, his journey to college serves as an example of his persistence. He emphasizes the importance that his goals had on his journey: “Even if I did not have a clear idea of my long-term goals, I was setting my goals in the right direction: to work towards a better future.” Regarding the significance of his story, he later says: “I think what made me stand out was that I emphasized my future and learning as a teenager.” He adds: “In my junior and senior year of high school, I decided to apply to the Ivy League colleges. I didn’t really think I had a good chance at them, but I thought they were worth applying to.” This decision turned out to be a good one as his hard work was recognized by Harvard University, who offered him admission in 2019.

Derrick’s story is a testament to achieving one’s potential despite the challenges they faced. He represents resilience and persistence, two traits that are critical to enduring the challenges and obstacles of life.

In concluding his interview, Derrick was asked about his biggest takeaway from his upbringing, to which he answered: “try to have a clear sense of purpose, try to define what you want to achieve and why. It is difficult to get to a place if you don’t know where you’re going.”

Interviewed by Kien Tom, a freshman at Post Oak High School. As part of an internship with The Jung Center, Kien is expressing his passion for story-telling by holding conversations with members of our community and highlighting their stories and the ways they’re helping make Houston a better place.

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