Student Reflection-Social Stigma and Poverty (11.2)

By Kathy Mai, Clemson University

In a society driven by an extensive focus on wealth, status, and image, one certainly unaffected by the value of a penny, my perspective was different. A penny to my peers was worth 1/99th of a lollipop, one wish in the water fountain, or a simple good luck charm on the ground. To me, this coin embodied more than financial value, but a representation of the journey my parents endured to achieve the American Dream, their laborious days, and their endless love towards me. The past of my family is painted with the beautiful Vietnamese culture I cherish deeply but also tainted with the hardship of poverty and absence of opportunity.

Growing up in a supportive household with my necessities fulfilled, I frequently found myself in a state of gratitude as I was reminded of the dedication my parents put forth to create a life of opportunity for me. While my appreciation prevailed, their impoverished upbringing increasingly became a hidden entity I wanted to uncover. Society and the media paint poverty and homelessness as a neglected issue—hopeless criminals that lacked purpose and value—a single story I believed to be true. As I sought real experiences and perspectives, I began rejecting the social stigma that continually suffocates the poor into isolation and finding refuge in the sanctuary my parents established. I desired to inspire college students to join me in looking beyond their surroundings and restricted views and engage with the world with an attitude grounded in equality, humanity, and love. 

Through my research and video production process, I became enlightened by the power multimodal projects embody. My video essay brought my story to life, embracing raw experiences and humanizing the poor. Although I had difficulty navigating different software and determining effective production sequences, I found the process rewarding nonetheless. Like most of my experiences with technology, the process was frustrating, experimental, and detail-oriented. However, as I got accustomed to the features of Premiere Rush, editing felt more natural, and I adopted a creative voice that combined craft with advocacy. My story was no longer a mere video or paper but a transformative work of art. 

I want to thank my professor, Dr. Shauna Chung, for her endless support and encouragement. Her guidance and lessons have taught me to seek the “other stories,” treasure my past and empathize with humanity in ways I never thought possible. As a nursing student, I regularly hold these principles in my heart and aim to care for others with unconditional acceptance.