A Quick Route To Adulthood

Seventeen-year-old Mai Lin Schultz is charging into her senior year of high school, full of hope and without a trace of fear.

It's a drastic change from nearly two years ago, reports 48 Hours Correspondent Bill Lagattuta. In February 1998, after weeks of heavy El Nino rains, a massive mudslide came crashing into Mai's home in Rio Nido, Calif.

"I don't know what's going to happen," she said. "I worry about everything. I don't want to lose my house. I don't want to move. I like it how it was....I loved my room."

But Mai worried most about her mother. A Korean immigrant and a single parent, Hee Ran Schultz often took three jobs a day to build a life for herself and her daughter.

"It's like ripping her heart out and her dreams cause she worked so hard for it," said Mai. "She's such a good mom, and she works so hard to take care of me...and to accomplish her goals....Now it just seems like someone really cruel took it all away from her."

Because there had been no mudslide insurance, the mortgage still had to be paid on the house that Mai and her mother could not live in anymore. And for Hee Ran Schultz, salvaging the little left behind was all heartbreak.

"She used to say sometimes that I would never take care of her when I was older," said Mai. "I guess this was a test so that...God and me could prove to her that I'm always going to take care of her."

And that's exactly what Mai has done. Less than two years after the mudslide, she has helped her mother buy a new house in nearby Guerneville. Mai even found a mortage, with an interest rate of 3.6 percent.

"I chose to grow up fast because if I didn't, we might not be where we are now," she explained.

But despite all that Mai has had to face, she's excelled in school and is now applying to college.

"It was hard...going to school...having friends, homework, a boyfriend, just being a teen-ager and being an adult in the adult world," said Mai. "And I'm going toward everything that I want full speed."

But even with so much to look forward to, revisiting Rio Nido and remembering the past isn't easy.

Mai said she feels lucky that "I didn't die in any of this, and my mom didn't die, and that we have each other," she said. "We have a lot to be thankful for."

To learn more about working teens, turn to Teen Slackers - Not!

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