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I Belong: Meet Albert

Meet Albert | Store Leader, Store 321, Tampa, FL

I was born in Denver, Colorado, but English was not my first language.

When I was 5, my parents sent both my newborn brother “Allen” and me to Hong Kong to live with my Auntie and her family so they could work to achieve the American Dream.

I woke up in a country with a family I didn’t know, and my mother was nowhere to be found. At the time, I struggled to understand why my parents had sent us off, and I had a lot of resentment toward them, even when I returned to the United States when I was 10. It wasn’t until I became a young adult that I started to understand their sacrifices for a better life in this country. My mother showed me a picture taken the night before she left us in Hong Kong that showed her holding my newborn brother with deep sadness in her eyes. I had to ask myself what leaving her children behind must have felt like.

My father escaped Communist China at 16 by swimming through shark-infested waters from the mainland to Hong Kong. There he learned about my great-grandfather, who had come to the United States during the Gold Rush, the first of his family to make the journey. At the age of 18, my father was able to get a sponsorship to the United States. My mother also grew up in Hong Kong but as an orphan. When she was 12, she came to San Francisco on a church-sponsored ship. Learning the stories of their struggles made me regret all of the resentment and heartache I had given them.

As time passed, I started appreciating the culture and traditions I experienced in Hong Kong. For example, I learned how to speak both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese. My extended family still lives in Hong Kong and mainland China. I often still celebrate and follow some of the traditions from my time in Hong Kong, such as decorating my house in red for the Chinese New Year and inviting friends over for the autumn festival to share moon cakes and light up lanterns.

In 2011, I met my husband, who is also an immigrant. He and his family came here in 2007 under political asylum from Communist Cuba. He earned his U.S. citizenship in 2013 and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in electrical engineering. I still remember how proud I was when he became an American and achieved his dreams. In 2016, we were featured in Pantsuit Nation, a book about what it was like to have immigrant parents and becoming citizens in the United States.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to visit his family in Cuba, and it reminded me so much of what my parents told me about China in the 1960s: time standing still and people having to be very resourceful to survive and raise a family. Even under those conditions, his family welcomed me with open arms. I was the talk around town but in a positive way.

My parents are now in their 60s. My father is a dim sum chef, and my mother works the front of the restaurant talking and making customers laugh.

I have been working at PetSmart for 21 years. My passion for animals is evident as we have six dogs and 11 cats. What I love about PetSmart is that I can hire and build relationships with people who share the same passion for pets and people as I do. At PetSmart, I have always felt I could be myself and live honestly as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other.


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