You Inspire Me   4 comments

Dedication. Perseverance. Tenacity. Drive. Determination. Stong-willed. Driven. Call it what you will, but when I see people who come to this country, with little to no English-speaking skills, fleeing their war-torn countries, armed with all of those afore-mentioned characteristics and then some, I cannot help but be inspired. Who wouldn’t? But here’s what I do not understand: Why don’t I see more American-born Blacks with that same fire? Our African ancestors (yes, we do have direct ties to Africa-I know some choose to forget or deny them) were beaten for the simple act of learning to read. They were not allowed to attend school. Yes, a few were but by-and-large the majority of them did not have that opportunity.

A female student came into the office yesterday. She explained that she completed her G.E.D. classes and has a diploma from her country as well; she was eager to start taking classes at the technical college. There were a few minor hiccups in getting her enrolled, but not once did she sigh, roll her eyes, complain, or stomp off in a huff. I had to send her to two different offices before she could actually register. I will admit that I would have been a little peeved myself, but not her. When she returned, I explained to her that she would need to complete some Adult Education classes but we could register her for one Math class. Again, no complaints. In her mind, she was one step closer to getting an (American) education. The thing that many of us take for granted. A thing many more of us do not consider. We have become too complacent. No, a college education does not guarantee a cushy job or financial security, but too many of us are still living in the cities/towns in which we were born. A larger number of us have never traveled outside the state where we were born. Who knows how many of us have actually traveled abroad? And we harbor too many stereotypes of (non-U.S. born) people because we limit our education to what they feed us on the idiot box. *Gi-normous sigh*

I do know this much is true: With everything that has occurred in her country, she still earned her high school diploma. And she carried that piece of paper around with her as though it is worth $1 million dollars. To her, it probably is.Β  She has been on my mind since yesterday. I do not know my next move. I still struggle trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow-up. But her spirit is contagious;Β it reminded me to appreciate my education, not so much for the act of getting it but moreso for the fact that I was able to get it. The opportunity was there; I took it and ran.

Fleeing a war-torn country, she managed to grab that piece of paper before she left. What will you ‘grab’ before you leave?

4 responses to “You Inspire Me

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  1. Beautiful. I am reminded of this, too, when I teach my developmental students. For many students in this country, an education is still seen as a luxury that is seemingly unattainable. One of my students’ is pregnant with her fifth child, but she is the first one in class every day. Another worked so hard that his back is essentially ruined and he is younger than I am. Another’s parents told him that an education was a waste of his time.

    Be thankful, too, that you were there to help guide her through the process and that she was encouraged by your kindness and support. One more person who is helping to lift her up, rather than keep her down.

  2. I hear what you are saying… However, the motivation for a student from another country — war torn or not — is very different for black students in the US. Students from other countries made a conscious decision to leave everything they have ever known because they heard from the tv or other family members that the US was THE place to be. When you have that kind of background, you are less likely to whine and complain about small things like having to see 2 offices before getting what you came for. Our students need to learn that it is normal to jump through a few hoops to get a reward. For our foreign students, if they went back home with nothing, it would be embarrassing. And how the foreign student’s family views them is of the utmost concern to them. This is not to say that black American families do not care about how our families view us, but there is so much out there that supports negative behavior in youth as opposed to the positive.

    And about the travel… I’ve been saying we need our folks to travel more often — even if its to the city next door… I live in DC and so many of our students who don’t take advantage of all the places that people from all over the world come to visit.

  3. YES! I agree with you wholeheartedly! Students here in the US treat school with such disdain. They have NO idea of the risks people take all around the world just to set eyes on a book. At the same time, I blame us. The US education system is in such a shambles that I understand why our young people don’t find education enticing. It’s high time we introduce them to students like yours.

  4. I am always inspired by immigrant stories. Then again, I am inspired by stories of young girls in our very own cities going through a million hoops to get it done as well. I am inspired by struggle and triumph in all its forms. As far as comparing an immigrant’s value of an American education or dream to ours…well, it’s complicated. For one, an education for us a citizens is a right not a distant dream of an opportunity which incidentially, should be equal and actually worth something (not necessarily a cushy job but some tangible value would be nice). If I was a US citizen going to a HS in Detroit, MI or Carolina, PR on track to graduate and not be able to spell “equivalent” my attitude towards school might be somewhat different than an immigrant with a dream studying for a GED. It should be. Our frame is different. There are many students in this boat.

    And on and on, I could go (as could youπŸ™‚ I know).

    For example, we could talk about the power of the pursuit of a dream and what hope does to propel the human spirit.
    That alone changes everything.
    I’m not sure many of our youths have that. And to the extent that they don’t, its because we haven’t provided it.

    “And she carried that piece of paper around with her as though it is worth $1 million dollars. To her, it probably is. ”

    I don’t think its just a matter of our youth “not appreciating” their access to education but its also about it being worth something to them, given THEIR context.

    We have to give the youth some relevance. That again, is up to us.

    As far as motivation goes though, you better say it again! Black and brown women in every corner of this earth have resilience built into their DNA. And that is something to celebrate and hold on to indeed.

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