You Can Do It!
Abstract: Do you believe that dreams can come true? If you work hard and fight for those dreams, they can become a reality. That is what I have learned from all the wonderful people I’ve met over the past ten months. I hope you’ve learned the same lesson in your life!
A few weeks ago, I was teaching fractions to a young man from Haiti sells fruit in the streets of Santiago. His name is Peterson. He is one of many young men who come to the community center where I volunteer. At the center, the boys learn Math and Spanish, play basketball, and get hot meals.
That day, the other volunteers and I were teaching fractions. The teacher drew pictures such as a half-shaded circle. Our students had to match the pictures to the correct fractions. When I put the sheet in front of Peterson, he got nervous. There were only four problems on the page, but that didn’t matter. To him, they probably looked like something in another language.
He sat and listened patiently as I explained the problems to him. He was focused. He paid attention. In the end, he did all four problems by himself. He got the correct answer each time. When he was done, he burst into a big smile.
“With a little help,” he shouted happily, “you can do anything!” He called over the teacher to show her how easy fractions were. My heart was overflowing with joy.
Peterson inspires me. He lives alone in the Dominican Republic, even though he is just fifteen years old. He spends his days in the hot sun selling fruit. He can’t go to school because he moves from one town to another too often. Still, he comes to the community center every day with a big smile on his face. He is always ready to learn.
I came to the Dominican Republic for students like Peterson. I want to help young people who struggle help themselves. I want to be an educator that changes the futures of her students. I want to make sure that there is always someone available to teach students like Peterson who want to learn and students who don’t.
I came to the Dominican Republic to learn and to teach. I wanted to learn about a culture that is different from my own. I wanted to teach students from a foreign country. I wanted to hear about their lives and tell them about mine. I wanted to travel unfamiliar roads. I wanted to explore a language and nation that wasn’t familiar to me.
Why did I want to do any of that? When I return to the United States, I want to be a teacher and a leader that makes sure every single child gets the opportunity to learn. My dream is to run a school in New York, the city I love. The first step to that dream is to teach and to teach children from the most difficult circumstances. New York is an international city where people speak hundreds of languages and come from all parts of the world. To understand how to help kids in NYC, I have to learn about some of the parts of the world where they come from.
Education is my dream because I know how important it is. I grew up where education always came first. My mom didn’t always have enough money to pay the bills, but she always made sure I got what I needed to study and succeed. I worked hard and had the help of amazing teachers who believed in me. Then, one day, I got the best news in the world: I was going to college!
From then on, everything changed. Education was what made that change. In college, I met students from all over the world. My closest friends now are Chinese, Taiwanese, Turkish and Nigerian. They are Christians, Jews and atheists. I learned from them as much as I learned from my textbooks. Through education, I got to travel. I visited Paris, a city I always dreamt of visitng. I worked in Boston and New York. I taught English and played in a flute ensemble. I changed my perspective and learned from the perspectives of so many others.
I want to take those magical four years in college and give it to every young person in the world. I want to make sure that kids whose families can’t pay the bills can still make it to college.
Young people like Peterson have inspired me to keep fighting to make my dream come true. I have met so many people in the Dominican Republic who are fighting for their dreams. There are my students, young men and women who ask for homework and extra classes so that they can learn faster. There are my coworkers who work two or three jobs to make ends meet. There are my friends, who go to college here, who sometimes fail and but always try again. I want to work in education so that people like met here can have the opportunities they are fighting for.
I’ve learned a lot living in the Dominican Republic. I’ve learned Spanish. I’ve learned how to dance bachata, merengue and salsa. I’ve learned what vacano means. I’ve learned what daily power outages feel like. I’ve learned how to get places in a public car.
Each and every lesson I’ll take back to the classroom with me as a teacher. I will tell my students about the world outside of New York. I will tell them to reach as far as they can for their goals, because they never know what they will find. I’ll tell them that if I can do it, they can do it to. I’ll tell them that I will always be there to help. Because, as Peterson told me, with a little help you can do anything. I promise.