Johnny Chheng grew up feeling invisible.
“I feel like I was just left out of the community,” Johnny says. “People looked at me like, uh, ‘This dude doesn’t know how to speak English. He doesn’t know anything about American and how they work and the system work.’ ”
His family life wasn’t much better. His parents didn’t talk about their traumatic experiences in Cambodia. And he couldn’t share his school troubles with them.
“I don’t really speak Cambodian proper,” he says, “so we don’t really communicate right, you know? I’m speaking American and they’re speaking in Cambodian, then, we’re just bumping heads.”
So Johnny found comfort on the streets, where other Cambodian kids were struggling with similar things.