Wa Da is a 21-year-old student at Ivy Tech Community College who will graduate with her associates degree in Business Management in Spring 2022. She is so excited as she only has one more class to graduate and pursue her business dreams of obtaining her real estate license and managing her own apartment complex.
Wa has not led an easy life thus far. Wa’s family fled Myanmar as refugees to Thailand where she was born. Her mom passed away when she was just a baby, so Wa was raised by her grandma, aunt, and uncle. Growing up in Thailand was difficult and so different from the United States where Wa would eventually end up. When Wa’s family decided to move to the United States, they went to suburban Chicagoland, where one of Wa’s aunts was already living. Wa’s aunt was working a warehouse job until she got into an accident and had to get onto social security disability. During her time in Chicagoland, Wa spent time learning the English language and acclimating to the American way of life before her family decided to move to Fort Wayne. She had a relative who was already living in Fort Wayne who raved about the affordable cost of living, eventually inspiring Wa’s family to move there. While they were living in the States, Wa’s family lived in a variety of apartment complexes. She realized quickly that some of the landlords did not take good care of the apartment buildings and would often not respond to tenant maintenance requests for a long time. “Because we didn’t speak English, they took advantage of us,” Wa said. These experiences led to Wa take an interest in business and real estate, hoping to one day manage her own apartment complex where people will feel taken care of and safe.
Along with classes, Wa is balancing quite a few other responsibilities. She just moved out from her grandma’s home and now has her own bills to pay. She continues to tend to her family and help them with their bills. She also works as an ophthalmic technician at a local eye doctor’s office. With all these various responsibilities, Wa has found an outlet for her stress in boxing. Joining the Persistence Pays Off program has helped Wa tremendously in her schoolwork. Her case manager from Lutheran Social Services, has helped her get set up with a budgeting plan as well as provided various referrals such as utility assistance that will help her grandma pay her utility bills. Getting help for her family is helpful for Wa to reach her own goals. “For the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve had to worry more about them than myself. I have to put them first. I don’t think that will be good for me in the long run. I have to help myself grow as well as try to help them as well,” Wa explained. Having her case manager help her go through the various difficulties of the past semester has been tremendously helpful for her.
Wa is so grateful for the opportunities that she has had in the United States where she has been able to pursue her education and find employment at ease. “We couldn’t get much from where I’m from, not even a good education. Over here, you can dream as big as you want, and you can make it. As long as you dream, you can fulfill that dream. I’m just grateful, I have a lot more than I did,” Wa explained, “Now I have my own apartment, and I have a car, a job, I have food on the table, I’m so grateful. I’m about to graduate!” In the future, she is looking forward to pursuing her Bachelor’s in Business Management and wants to get her real estate license. She is incredibly grateful for how far she has come and excited about how far she will go.