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Thank You, America This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Thank you, America.
To all the people who make the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), Social ­Security disability, free school lunch, and my state's free health insurance possible, thank you.

Without these programs I would have no food, shelter, or health care. Often I hear people say that those who use these programs are lazy. I want to prove that some of us are working hard.

When I was five years old, I saw my mom crying because we didn't have enough money for groceries. Since then, I have always been aware of my family's finances. As a kid, I would see peers asking their parents for candy at the checkout line, but I never asked because I knew we didn't have the money. And I was ashamed when Mom had to put food back because the total was more than she had. It felt like all the people in line behind us were staring, sneering. I knew they looked down on my family. I didn't want them to know that we couldn't support ourselves. So I tried to hide it from everyone.

As I grew up, I stopped being ashamed. I realized people were supporting my family, rooting for me. Even though people would still huff and stare, I knew others were generously contributing to help my family survive.

My mother's mental health prevents her from working, and her Social Security disability pays our rent. Other government aid programs help with most of my basic needs. They keep me in a safe place that has food. I would not have been able to succeed in school without having these basic needs met.

Heading to college, I know I will be successful. I have been applying for scholarships and saving money from my part-time job. For my whole life, America has been providing help – help that sometimes goes unnoticed for days at a time.

But I know America has been betting on me for 17 years. And I will prove that I was a good bet.

Thank you, America.

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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