We Are America

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Photo ofSophia Zeng

I apartment with my grandma and uncle. When I turned 3, my brother was born and the apartment was too crowded for 6 people. We moved a few times to other small apartments and managed to stay in the city until I turned 5. Then, my parents found a house in Quincy and decided to move there. Even though we moved to Quincy, my dad decided it is best to keep us enrolled in Boston Public Schools, since we are already familiar with the  area. So, we used a relative’s address to satisfy the residency requirements.  As a child, I didn’t realize that I was living in a completely different city. I always thought that my family just moved to a bigger house in Boston. As I grew older, I began to realize that we had moved out of Boston, and it was not allowed for my brother and I to go to school there. By the time I was in 6th grade, I urged my parents to move back to Boston because I was worried that we were going to get caught. I also wanted to move back to Boston because in 6th grade, I took the Independent School Entrance Examination  and I had gained entrance to Boston Latin Academy. By going to an exam school, it greatly increased my chance of getting penalized by the school district. However, it wasn’t easy to just move back to Boston. Over the years we were gone, real estate prices in Boston increased.  When I started attending Boston Latin Academy, I wasn’t really focused on this issue. I was more focused on my studies and getting used to a new school. When 8th grade began, the worry returned. I kept asking my parents what would happen if the school discovered we didn’t live in Boston, but they refused to move back. From time to time, I would get really frustrated because I didn’t like not being able to tell anyone where I actually lived. It felt like I was trapped, unable to explain how I was feeling to anyone who would understand. Finally, at the end of 9th grade, the thing I most dreaded happened. The school district discovered our secret.  I was both devastated and relieved. It was heartbreaking for me because I had started loving BLA and its environment. I was also part of the track team and enjoyed going to practice every day with my best friend. It was sad to know that I wouldn’t be seeing my friends every day anymore. At the same time, I was relieved: I no longer had to live a lie.  When I transferred to North Quincy High School, I didn’t really know any- body and wasn’t familiar with my surroundings. My first day was probably the most stressful day because I didn’t know where I was most of the time and I didn’t have any friends. I remembered where all my classes were by the 2nd day and I was starting to talk to some of my classmates in my Chemistry class. I had adopted some time management skills during my time at BLA and I applied it throughout the year at NQHS. As the year continued, I felt more comfortable and familiar with going to school every day. Overall, going to a new school wasn’t as bad as I thought. I still wish I was back at BLA from time to time, but that was in the past. All I can do now is to move forward.  I decided to share this story because it is very important to support and advocate for those who struggle with finding affordable housing. 

© Sophia Zeng. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.