A student's speech to the graduates reveals a family built on faith
She got a job at Thai Siam as a server and hostess and began working long hours in order to build a new life for her family.
"Working at the restaurant was the turning point of my life," said Wintch. "It was really hard. I worked long hours, and by the time I'm done it's almost midnight. That's why I like to take my children to the restaurant with me. The kids grew up in the restaurant."
She struggled not only to survive, but to keep both children in private school because that's what the student visa required. She said she sometimes second-guessed her decisions, but her dedication to prayer eased those doubts.
August, the new grad, and May, who earned a bachelor's degree from Westminster and is currently working on a Master's degree at South Dakota State University, said watching their mother inspired them.
"We didn't complain about being in the restaurant," said May, who began working there at 13. "We didn't feel bad. We were just grateful. We knew it was more important to work and know that we'd be able to survive."
The new life
August said he remembers very little of his life in Thailand, but he remembers how the family lived.
"I had every (material) thing back in Thailand," he said. "All the kids in the neighborhood wanted to play at my house because I had all the latest, newest toys."
In America the children bussed tables, talked with customers and learned that some of the best in life can't be bought. The children never criticized their mother's decision to leave their home country.
"It was a decision we made together," said May, who will return to Thailand in July for a few months.
As the years rolled on Wintch said she felt bad at times that her children had to spend time working when other children were playing.
"I kept asking myself, 'What am I doing here? I have a family. I could live with them,'" she said of the country she left behind. "But this is my new life. I have to make it work," she said, her eyes glancing at her son.
"We value every dollar," said August, who said he only attended two dances at Hillcrest High because of cost. "We never waste our money on anything. I rarely ask my mom for anything. I see she worked hard for her money, so I think I should work hard for my own."
August had a gift with computers and secured an internship through a school program with a local computer company. He was hired after the internship finished, and he also helped support himself by creating websites for Thai Restaurants.
While May graduated from Mt. Vernon, August was able to transfer to Hillcrest as a sophomore because his mother remarried, allowing for a move to public school.
"My lovely husband, Kenneth Wintch, he made our family complete," she said. He became a help and partner to Wintch and the father August longed to have. They went hiking, camping, hunting - all of the "guy things" that August missed out on because he grew up working with his mom.
For Wintch, life was again moving toward "perfect."
And then August made a decision that his mother tried to dissuade him from making all of his life. He joined the Army National Guard because, he said, he'd always wanted to be a soldier.
His life experience instilled in him a desire to give back and he hoped the National Guard's aid to people and places in crisis and the ability to protect America during times of war would help him fulfill that need.
"I scolded him," said his mother, who is still trying to make peace with the decision that will take her son from her home on July 2 - a month before he turns 18.
"I told him I wouldn't leave him anything. He said May could have it all. I told him, 'What if you die?' He said. "Well, God already set the path for everybody. If I die, I would have died anyway, no matter where it is."
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