As a child growing up in
Trinidad and Tobago, I didn’t have access to new books or an updated library
system. Educational resources in public
schools were limited, so teachers and administrators did the best they could
with the resources available to them. Yet, I somehow managed to remain at the top of my class during elementary
school. And I have constantly asked
myself why. I didn’t always
have someone to check my homework, but I had strict house rules that placed
education above everything else. I also
had teachers that ensured: 1) I completed all homework assignments; 2) I
performed well in class; and 3) I remained engaged in classroom learning, every
day. I also had family members guide and
support me in so many ways and a small community that helped raise me, which
all contributed to helping shape the person I am today.
There’s one childhood memory that really sticks out, and I think about it from time to time. My sisters and I were walking home from school, and these three girls - they were such bullies - followed us, taunting us the entire walk home. They weren’t from the same neighborhood, but they certainly enjoyed teasing my sisters and me. We were quiet back then, which made us easy targets for these girls. We reached about two blocks away from our home, and we were terrified that these girls would follow us all the way home. But our community would not stand for it! They witnessed the bullying and stepped in. They made sure those girls understood that their bullying tendencies were not welcome in our community. I couldn’t believe it, just like that, I realized we would always be safe, because we lived in a community that cared for the well-being of everyone and looked out for each other. That is a powerful gesture. I truly appreciate the community that helped raise me. The support from my family, teachers, and our community made all the difference. We sometimes forget the power of encouragement and support, and the difference it can mean for our youth.
I know my story is not unique, and there are many kids with similar, or worse situations. I want anyone in these circumstances to know that they should persevere through the difficult times, because it does get better. Use your public library to seek out the many resources available to you. I want every child to know that the time they spend in the classroom is critical, so it is important to pay attention to your teachers and administrators. I also want them to know that it is important to follow the good advice of your parents and mentors who are helping to shape the person you’ll become one day. I want to reach kids from every walk of life, and help them to understand that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. That is, after all, The American Dream.
As we gear up for the start of the school year, let’s put education first. Let’s remember that our youth need support and guidance, along with good-quality education. Most of all, let’s encourage our youth to DREAM BIG. Let them chase after The American Dream!