My dad really wanted to continue school but wasn’t able to due to financial instability in his family, in Haiti. So he decided to volunteer to help other students with their homework. Using his intelligence, he came up with an idea to make students learn faster by studying in groups. A number of students benefited from his program academically and they also gained confidence. This put a smile on a lot of students’ faces and their parents decided to make it a job and pay my dad. Several years later, my father decided to open a business. Every Friday and Saturday, my mom and dad went to the market to sell chickens that they raised. Then, my dad opened his own market and hired people to work there. Eventually, my father went back to school and became an engineer, which was always his goal. My dad always said he came from a poor family but that his dream was to become a successful man and role model for his children.
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One of the hardest questions to ask somebody is: What is intelligence? There are no right or wrong answers. It’s very common for people to cite examples of wealthy or famous people. But you don’t have to go too far to see that it’s all around you. I used to think that intelligence was only found in those who went to school. They have intelligence for following rules that are implanted in school and for doing what is told. But others have it, too. What’s the difference between the president’s intelligence and a farmer’s intelligence? Opposite positions in society, but both working in order to create change. A car is planned by a designer but you need a mechanic to keep it running. Intelligence is universal.
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For me, intelligence is being gritty. When my mom was a teenager in DR, she had to do all the house activity before she left for school: clean, wash the dishes, even go to the river to get water and do the laundry by hand. Still, she always kept her grades in A’s and B’s. But then there was a time when she had to quit school around 14 because her family life became too tough. Time passed, but she never stopped thinking about school. When I was nine, she decided to go back. She finished middle school and high school and the only reason she didn’t go to col- lege was because of money, which is the real issue in my country of why a lot of people quit their dreams. This doesn’t mean my mom is not intelligent. She became a hairstylist. She went to a school for this, got her diploma, and now works as a hairdresser from her house.
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Intelligence is what we learn through the experiences of life: by working hard, thinking critically, and catching different skills from everything we’ve done well. When I was a freshman, I liked to try new things, to find an answer to what didn’t have one, and to work as hard as I could so I could keep my grades up. I used to say that once I had them up, I was not going to let them go down.
That didn’t last forever. I started to care less about school. It was not an intelligent decision, but I let my laziness beat me instead of fighting back. By the end of 11th grade, my grades were so low that only a special project for each class could help me pass. I spent the last weeks of school working harder than ever. I made up credits from classes that I did not do well in before. I was proud of myself. That experience taught me that it’s never too late to step up. You don’t get intelligent by watching others do the job for you. If you don’t get it right the first time, do it again.
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Can one who abandons everything he has and ventures into a foreign land with little more than hope in mankind be considered intelligent? Now, say that he did it because he realized that he could provide better for his family that way, and that the nothing he started with in that new country became a house where his family is now living with him. Would you consider him intelligent? What about a second one who was left behind with three children to raise by herself, and did it so well that none of them chose a dark path? Would you say that she is intelligent? Now take a look at one who aspires to become a soccer player. One whose grade point average doesn’t meet the requirement that his high school imposes on students for them to be part of sports teams. Can he, whose GPA is not even high enough to practice a sport, be considered intelligent? Let us fast-forward a couple of months to find out that he realized what he had to do. He then worked relentlessly to raise his GPA and not only became part of the team that he previously couldn’t join, but also became its vice-captain.

Can we now assume that he is intelligent?

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