Lun Mun Zam recalls her days living in Burma as a young girl. She speaks of her loving grandmother and auntie–but also of people having to work seven days a week, and fetching water and wood daily due to the lack of electricity and indoor plumbing. Food was often scarce, and school was expensive. Teachers would ask the students who didn’t pay to stand up in during class, something very embarrassing for young individuals to do in front of their peers.
Lun’s father wanted his family to seek safety and a better life in the United States, but Lun was hesitant and fearful because she knew no English and would have to enter into high school upon arrival. High school is a challenging time of life, even for those U.S. born. Lun arrived in Jacksonville in December 2015 and enrolled as a 9th grader at Englewood High school. Now she would have to learn the language, the culture, navigate the high school scene and comprehend the expectations of the U.S. school system.
High school classes were challenging, especially courses that required advanced English skills like U.S. history and the sciences. Lun became a part of Lutheran Social Services’s youth services program where she regularly attended after-school tutoring. With hard work both at school and in the youth services program, her English skills and grades improved immensely. She also met friends through the program that were from around the world. Lun says she would “rate this program a 10/10.” Summer school was particularly influential in her life as it allowed her to get ahead with English comprehension and prepared her for success in other school subjects.
When Lun graduated high school she did not just walk across the stage to receive her diploma. She stood up and spoke to her entire graduating class and their friends and family in Burmese about what it meant to be a graduate of Englewood High School. For a long time, she thought she wanted to go into the military after high school. Participating in her school’s ROTC program made her realize, however, that it wasn’t her passion but instead cosmetology was. Irina, the Career Development Specialist at LSS, helped lay out all of the options for Lun to pursue her passion. Lun decided to attend the Parisian Spa Institute to learn how to do hair, nails and skin. Lun appreciated that even after she started school, Irina kept in touch with her to see how she was doing.
Lun is looking forward to graduating the cosmetology program in May 2020. After getting some experience, her dream is to open a salon of her own. There are not many Burmese cosmetologists in Jacksonville, so some of her Burmese friends and family are very excited to have a Burmese cosmetologist within their community!