Theodore High School
“A blazing hot and humid day in midsummer 2004 marked the beginning of three dreadful years for my family…” So began an essay submitted by China Barber to her English teacher. China’s family consists of her mother, a sister, and three brothers. With six children (two girls and four boys), China’s mother was disabled and on her own, the children’s father having abandoned the family. The balance of their delicate situation was toppled in 2004 when their home burned to the ground.
China’s grandmother offered a trailer on her property in Bayou La Batre. “It was raised high upon cinder blocks. The windows had been broken, and shards of glass hung from the panes… The trailer wasn’t much, but it would have to suffice.” The family set about restoring the new home. As they neared completion in 2005, tragedy struck again in the form of Hurricane Katrina. The trailer was destroyed. “Our dreams crumbled to the stench-filled mud,” China wrote.
The family was loaned two campers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These campers would be their home for the next two years. During this time, China’s mother decided to sell their small plot of land, hoping to buy a house. She received $10,000. In China’s words, “Our hopes were again crushed when Mother was robbed – all of the money stolen.”
A family friend invited China and three of her siblings to live with him. Another friend provided housing for her mother and other two brothers. “We each had our own bed to sleep in, and we ate healthier food. We were able to enhance our concentration at school.”
China’s nominator, Ms. Mary Elaine Wagner wrote, “China and her family have suffered extreme hardships; however, most people have no idea because China does not complain or act bitter or request others’ pity.” China maintains a 3.8 GPA and is ranked 9th in her class of 356. She is on the honor role of Theodore High School every semester and has been recognized with Honors English awards, as well as first place awards for her poetry.
China is an officer in the National Honor Society and other honors organizations at her school. She has served as a volunteer for Kids’ Day, Bayfest, the Mobile Tennis Center, the Mobile International Festival, the Azalea Trail Run, Coastal Cleanup, United Cerebral Palsy’s Hog Wild Festival, and many other causes.
The family continues to struggle with difficult situations, including the recent death of a brother in an automobile accident. China wants to attend the University of South Alabama where she plans to pursue a career in pharmacy. Dedication to family and community – superior scholarship and participation – and an iron determination – for all these qualities and more, it is appropriate that China Barber is recognized as one of Alabama’s Young Heroes for 2011.