From street kid to star student

Living under the stairs of the Binh Thoi apartment complex in District 11, Ho Chi Minh City, for 21 years, former street kid Nguyen Thanh Sang, 21, has gradually changed his fate, becoming an outstanding student at HCMC University of Transport.

Under the staircase of Binh Thoi apartment building, District 11, Ho Chi Minh City is the place where Sang and his grandmother live.

Life as a street kid

Sang's family moved to Ho Chi Minh City nearly 20 years ago, facing such hardships that his grandmother had to work as a security guard and parking attendant to accommodate 8-9 family members in their cramped living space under the apartment stairwell. At night, lacking enough room, they would split up and sleep on the rooftop, while their bathing, restroom needs, and cooking were managed on the sidewalk. Sang recounted, "Childhood is an unforgettable memory. My parents divorced, each going their separate ways. I wandered with my grandmother. There was a park in front of the apartment complex, and she and I took turns guarding it at night, braving the wind and dew, placing a lounger by the gate to guard vehicles and earn money. During the day, my grandmother sold lottery tickets and collected scrap metal, never resting. In the corner of the park lies a dump. Since I was nine, I've gathered trash from every floor of the four-story apartment building. I cleaned the hallways and cleared the dump a few times weekly, earning VND2 million monthly. For my grandmother and me, that trash heap was like a gold mine, enabling us to support ourselves."

Growing up on the streets and assuming the role of "park boss," Sang associated primarily with the most troublesome kids at school. Throughout elementary and middle school, mornings were filled with fights, while evenings were spent engaging in various street activities. Sang reflected, "Back then, my grades were consistently average, bordering on poor. Well-behaved classmates treated me as if I were invisible and didn't want to play with me. I resigned myself to the idea that once labeled a street kid, always be a street kid. My future seemed very bleak."

This prejudice manifested right within Sang's own family. After his parents' divorce, living with his mother exposed him to her and her stepfather's nightly drinking and fighting. Moving in with his father led him to endure his father's subsequent wife, who "educated" him through verbal abuse, physical punishment, and constant belittlement, branding him as a vagrant child. His father criticized his poor academics, deeming him useless and unfavorably comparing him to his stepmother's biological child. Sang was extremely sensitive, often finding solace at home by talking to himself and crying alone. He felt lost, unsure of where to turn, with no clear way out.

Awakening and reclaiming life

In 10th grade, Sang enrolled in a public school with the city's lowest admission standards, encountering a different group of street kids who engaged in more intense altercations. The highlight came when Sang's team won a small soccer competition at school. Displeased with the loss, after school, rival classmates gathered their gangsters, wielding pitchforks and machetes. This clash inadvertently became a wake-up call for Sang, realizing he couldn't continue living aimlessly like this forever. Around this time, Sang's mother gave birth to another son. Becoming an older brother, Sang felt a greater sense of responsibility, and his self-study discipline increased. He began attending extra classes at a nearby center, learning from high-achieving peers and diligently following teachers' guidance despite initial insecurity, always sitting at the back. Nonetheless, Sang remained dedicated to his studies. By 12th grade, Sang achieved the title of excellent student for the first time and was elected class president by his teachers.

During that time, Sang happened to hear from an acquaintance of his homeroom teacher about their experience working in the logistics industry, which greatly appealed to him. He began dreaming of working in such an environment. Every few weeks, he rode his bike 10 kilometers from home to gaze at the gate of the University of Transport, nurturing his aspirations. Sang committed himself to his studies in pursuit of a transformative path but unfortunately fell short by half a point in that year's university entrance exam. However, an opportunity arose with the university's international cooperative education program, which required a 5.5 IELTS score for admission. Sang seized this chance, studying tirelessly day and night, and eventually achieved his dream. Despite working as a motorcycle taxi driver, a waiter, and a tutor to finance his education, Sang consistently excelled in his university studies.

Sang quickly became sociable and actively participated in almost every school competition, willingly taking on challenging tasks. His achievements in winning first place in the MC competition and excelling in English public speaking contests earned him recognition from teachers, leading to opportunities as an English teaching assistant for new students. He was also invited to host programs and feature in promotional clips for school activities. Ms. Phan Ha, Principal of an English center where Sang teaches, praised him: "At our center, Sang instructs children aged 9-15, a group that requires both teaching and coaxing. He demonstrates remarkable responsibility, understanding each student's individual needs and psychology, which greatly enhances his teaching effectiveness. The children admire and deeply appreciate Sang."

Other news