I am in the late room on a daily basis to make up for my time. Entering school late allows me to drop my boys off at their school every morning. I see this young lady every single day and she is so respectful and loving toward her younger sister. She reminds her sister to say, “Good afternoon” and always says, “thank you” when she picks her up. The little girl stays in the late room because her sister isn’t able to pick her up on time because she’s still in class when we dismiss.
A few days ago as I stood outside of the late room while he kids were being picked up. I listened to a junior high school student talk to her dad on her cell phone. She was filled with excitement as she said, “Dad I am so excited, are you proud of me?”. She waited eagerly for his response which I am sure was something like, “of course, sweetie”. She went on to ask him, “Is it a good school, dad?”. I am not sure what his response was but when she hung up she looked for reassurance from me. If she only knew it doesn’t matter which school you choose to go to. You DO NOT have to be a product of your environment!
When she approached me and asked with concern, “Do you think this is a good school?” I really had no clue about the school and where it was located. She went on to say, “I don’t want to go to a bad school in the hood!”. My response to her was sharing my story. I explained to her that we are NOT a product of our environment or our zip code. Where we come from doesn’t define who we are.
Briefly I took her through my story of being a girl from Brownsville, Brooklyn. I shared with her that I went to a pretty rough junior high school, high school and they weren’t the best of the best. They weren’t the best of the best but I made the best out of them! I put all that “extra” stuff aside like gangs, drugs, fights and just focused on my studies. I worked hard and went from school right back home. I am sure many thought I was a nerd but I didn’t care. My parents instilled in me from early on that I needed to be a leader. My dad scared me when he told me, “If you ever get in trouble, I will NEVER bail you out even if I am a police officer”. I knew whatever choices I made would affect me NOT my parents!
As I spoke I knew she was listening because her eyes were locked on mine. I ran her through my steps of college explaining to her that I started slow but straight out of high school. I didn’t know if I was college material but I wanted to give it a shot! I went from a community college to a private college graduating with honors. This college experience led me right into my teaching career. While teaching, I was accepted into a scholarship program nominated by my principal. Eight fellows began off campus but shortly after matriculated and graduated with honors in Kappa Delta Pi.
After telling her my story her eyes were swelled up with tears and she seemed relieved. I said to her, “so you see…I am NOT my zip code and I did NOT become a product of my environment”. I went on to explain to her that I knew in my heart she would have the same story as myself because she was smart and she would know which was the correct path to take. I told her although I didn’t know her well, I observed her and she was setting a beautiful example for her sister and I believe in people like her. “I believe in you and I know you will do what’s right”. This young lady thanked me, extended her hands out for a hug and hunched over to place her head on my shoulder (she is way taller than myself). I share this because it’s important for children to know that it doesn’t matter where you come from, only where you are going. With support, motivation, and encouragement anything is possible and I am proof of it!
Care to share: How can we help young men and ladies realize that they DO NOT have to succumb to their environment but they are destined for much greater in life?