I was four years old when I attended my first day of kindergarten, in Ecuador. Tia Meche, my dark-haired kindergarten teacher, was at the door receiving her students with jokes to cheer up the crying children. I was not one of them. For me, this class had a sense of peace. One day, several years ago, my dad decided to come to the United States, seeking a better life. In my heart, there was an empty space that belonged to him. He was providing money for us, but it was still not enough. My mom began to work, washing other people’s clothes. I tried to pitch in by skipping school and going to the streets to sell bracelets that I learned to make from a free course. Nobody forced me to do this. I felt good that I could buy food and not let my family sleep with nothing in their stomachs. One day, after school, my mom opened the door -- but without her usual smile. She said she needed to speak to me and my siblings. “I talked to your dad,” she said. “It hurts that I can’t give you a better life….Going to the United States, you guys will have different opportunities.” In May of 2012, my siblings and I came to the US. After seven years, I was going to have my dad in front of me. My mother stayed behind. Now I’m a senior in high school. I am working hard and I am not giving up on me. Selling bracelets taught me that you have to fight for what you want. I started taking challenges and following my dreams to become a pediatrician and bring the rest of my family here. Every morning I take the bus, I look at the sky and think about my family. I am here for them. In Boston, I have met people who are like my second family. I have recovered the happiness I felt when I was back in kindergarten.
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February of 2013 was a time that my life radically changed. It was my first day of middle school in Boston. My dad and aunt were by my side. The bell rang and that was a sign that class was about to start. As students were walking in the hallway, I lost sight of my family. That was the moment I realized I was all by myself in a totally different world. As I looked around my classroom, one of the students asked: “Are you from Dominican Republic?” I didn’t understand. Then she asked me in Spanish. Hearing this gave me a little more confidence. Yes, I am from DR. The class started and I felt an urge to go to the bathroom. But I didn’t know how to ask permission. I started to feel a desperation that took power over me and almost took out a tear. I spent what felt like hours in a class trying to learn English. The teacher knew how to speak Spanish but didn’t want to. I didn’t know how to say a single word in English. Every minute in her classroom made me feel tortured. This pushed me to learn English on my own. During the summer, I went with my aunt every day to work. I heard people talking. I wrote all the words I could understand on a little piece of paper and translated them when I got home. When I started high school, I was assigned homework that I didn’t know how to do. But my teacher helped me with it. I started to feel supported. That feeling self-motivated me to keep up the hard work. I began to think about my future goals: go to a four-year college and then obtain a master’s degree so that I can get a job as a psychologist that I will enjoy and also help my family. I now know that no matter what challenges I have in life, I can overcome them.        
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School
Trying to Stem the Tide of Male-Dominated Science Careers
Anthony Ruiz, 18, is enrolled in advanced mathematics classes for his senior year at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. Although fearful of his overloaded schedule, Ruiz has one goal in mind. He wants to become an engineer. "Career choices involving science, technology,  engineering, and mathematics together account for [a lot of] the paying jobs around the world,” says Ruiz. While back in time artisanship was a major source of job flow, art is now put to the side, and STEM has taken over. The city is currently working to incre ase middle school students’ exposure to STEM learning. For now, many college-bound students are making their life choices based on the profitability of STEM pathways. Kripa Thapa, 18, from Roslindale, wants to become a nurse but says the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields would not deter her from pursuing a different career arc. "If you want to be a doctor, you can -- men or women,” she says. “It’s just what you want and what you work for."
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A course like AP Calc may sound great to college officials but how useful will it be in life? There is a growing movement among teens to push for more practical subject matter. Which is why the YouTube music video “Don’t Stay in School” is taking hold in popularity. Many teens say they can relate to the message – except the dropping out of school part, which they say is as hopeless as the school topics themselves. “All this math is useless in the future,” says Musa Mohammed, 19, from Dorchester. “Saying don’t stay in school is too extreme, but the schools should change their methods and subjects so that it’s more relatable.” Seventeen-year-old Jenny Hoang, from TechBoston Academy, is on board with that. “The things we learn are going to be pointless in the future if it’s not in our profession,” says Hoang, “but we still need to go to school.” As the creator of the video raps: “I wasn’t taught how to get a job but I can remember dissecting a frog” and “I know igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Yet I don’t know squat about trading stocks. Or how money works at all -- where does it come from? How does the thing that motivates the world function?”
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In Haiti, I always had to fight to succeed. In my culture, people look at you at a different angle if you are not educated. But how can a young soul succeed when it can be who you know, not what you know? My parents and I made the decision to come to America. When I came to the United States, four years after the devastating earthquake of 2010, I felt lost. I had to rebuild my life from scratch. However, I had come to a place of acceptance and made the decision to press forward. I had to learn the meaning of perseverance. In America, education is different. It is not based on memorization but on comprehension. But more resources are available here. Teachers make you understand. No more hours of trying to remember several pages. No more fears of not having a better future. I want to be a businesswoman and also start an organization that helps students in Haiti. I am determined to obtain success no matter how long it takes.
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