Meng Xiangjun, 19, is a junior at Zha Shui County Sr. High School. His first year he was ranked #31 out of the 60 students in his class. In his second year he climbed the ranks to #12 for juniors in the high school overall. His favorite subjects arescience and math. He hopes to pursue a major that relates to these areas.
Meng's academic standing has risen despite a lot of hardship along the way. Of his 6 family members, 2 uncles have mental problems and his father suffers from cerebral thrombosis. Further, the family owns only 3 mu of land (1/2 acre) and works other lands where they grow potatoes and wheat. As a young boy Meng helped with farm work. His older brother completed high school, but only scored well enough for a level 3 university, so he decided to take a job pumping water at a mine.
During Meng's last year of junior high school, his father was hit in the leg by a car. The accident left the family in economic dispare. With his father not working, they needed more resources coming in to be able to afford the basics, let alone the steep costs of high school. Meng stopped his studies for one year to earn some money for the family. Over the course of the year he worked in two different jobs. He first worked as a delivery boy for a bar. His boss gave him room and board, plus 500Y ($65) a month, although the money was decent, he rarely paid him on time stretching Meng's family resources thin. After 4 months, the job simply became too much physically. Through a friend he found another job working in a restaurant. This boss paid him room and board but only 400Y ($50) per month, but at least they paid him on time.
After saving up money to support his family and education, Meng returned to high school with the encouragement of friends and the school officials, who awarded him a full tuition waiver. He used some of his work savings to pay the outstanding tuition charges and expenses, like books. Yet other costs remained relatively high. For one, as Meng's home is 35km from school, he must pay to live in the school dorm. As his brother must support the entire family, he is unable to provide much help to Meng. As a result, everyday he eats meals consisting of a steamed bun and soymilk for breakfast, rice noodles and bean sprouts for lunch and rice or rice noodles for dinner, keeping his food costs to 5Y ($0.66) per day. He has never purchased new clothes. All of his clothes were donated and he has no winter coat, so all winter long he must wear his only two sweaters to stay warm.
A favorite grandchild, Meng explains that his grandfather's encouragement helped him along his journey. Meng says he tries to live by the many principles of life that his grandfather taught him. This semester he is studying even harder than before because he does not want to fall behind in his courses, including using a tape recorder a relative gave him, to try to improve his English.