Father, Wen Z. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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His eyes strained to make out the tiny characters in the dim candlelight. “5x2 - 23x -10 = (5x+2) (x-5),” he wrote on the cheap yellow paper he had managed to get. It was 1978, and his family was stuck in poverty in China. He knew the only way out was education, but a good education was almost impossible to obtain. His teachers couldn’t teach him anything – he was smarter than they were. He had to study on his own, without any guidance.

With just a few books his uncle had kept from his school days, he began the difficult task of teaching himself math. Although the books were hard to understand, he tackled them with fervor. Every day, he woke up early to listen to the radio and learn English. After school, he worked to support his family. At night, after a long, hard day, he retired to his bedroom to study, ­sometimes staying up until two in the morning.

Since the books did not have solution manuals, he had no idea whether his answers were right. His goal was to finish as many problems as he could and master each concept as quickly as possible before moving on. Some problems took him days to figure out.

In just two years, he learned everything from basic fractions to calculus. His arduous work paid off, and in 1980, he was ­accepted into Sun Yat-sen University, one of the most prestigious in China. He later immigrated to the United States, where he got his master’s degree. Even though he had a tough time at first, he is now a successful IT manager at Deutsche Bank.

Throughout the challenges life threw his way, he persevered with determination and will. His spirit carried him through ­hardships, lifting him out of poverty and into a successful life. Listening to his story has made me realize how strong my father is. It has inspired me to work hard on my own studies, following his example. My father is someone I look up to and admire greatly. He is my hero.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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