I proudly served as an AmeriCorps member at the legendary Booker T. Washington Senior High School in the historic city of Overtown.
I was born in Venezuela and I grew up with three brothers and two devoted parents. Growing up, I had a very colorful childhood where I was unaware of the struggles that my parents were facing, the struggles that eventually led us to make the hasty decision to move to Miami. Moving to Miami was a huge cultural shock to me; I started school right away. On my first day of school, the FCAT was taking place. You can’t imagine my struggle coming into school not knowing English and having to take a state test. My years in elementary and middle school were very challenging. My parents didn’t speak English. Schoolwork and homework were always a challenge.
My mom always tried to do the best she could to help my brother and me to the best of her abilities. Nonetheless, we struggled through school, but with motivation and assistance, we managed to pass middle school and learn English. High school was a bit more relaxed; I had passed the ESOL exam, and I was still motivated to finish and focus on a college career. Thanks to my parents’ support and sacrifice, I was able to enroll as an out-of-state student in Miami-Dade College where I managed to complete my Associate’s Degree. I later transferred to Florida International University where I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication in Broadcast Media.
When I was growing up in Venezuela, I participated in a student newspaper called “Redonda La Luna.” This newspaper was created by my mom’s aunt, and it was established in low-income schools where students lived in poverty. The idea behind this newspaper was to show students that they had a voice and that someone cared for what they had to say.
Being a part of this newspaper got a group of seven-year-olds, myself included, to interview the president of Venezuela at the time, which to us was a huge achievement. When I heard about City Year, I immediately decided that it was a great opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless just as that student newspaper had done with me.
I decided to dedicate a year to service at Booker T. Washington Senior High School because as a journalist I felt the need to see for myself how education and our students are affected by the constant debate of what is best for them. The reason I served was to give back to others the courage and belief that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.
I was an interventionist in an Intensive Reading Plus class, which meant I worked with the lowest 25 percent of ninth graders. These were students that somehow were left behind due to different factors such as lack of motivation, low-income, or lack of parent support. Our goal was to try to get them on grade level and the path to graduation.
Through my role, I met a student named Joe. The first time I started working with Joe, I was taken aback by how he struggled to read the simplest words. Joe had a reading level of a student in kindergarten. It was such a shock to me that he was so behind in reading but had somehow managed to make it to ninth grade. That’s when I decided to focus as much as possible on making him a more fluent reader. At first, he seemed unaware of his inability to read but after a few mentoring sessions he understood that he had to work harder than some of his other classmates. Through constant differentiated instruction and tutoring, we were able to help him improve.
After a lot of work and teaching, we were able to get to a third-grade reading level. Joe is one of the many students that lacked parent support and motivation to care for his education, and that is why we are here as City Year, to make sure he gets a second chance at learning.
Joe reminded me how any obstacle can be overcome if we have the support and determination to achieve what we want. He was a wonderful inspiration to continue my work after City Year and pursue my career as a journalist.
After graduating from City Year, I aspire to continue to be a voice to all students. I intend that through my career as a journalist I would be able to advocate for education.
I hope that one day, I can also form my student newspaper and give a voice to all those students that didn’t think they had a voice or goals that could be achieved.
I wish I can be a source of inspiration to them so that one day they can become a mentor to another just like I did with Joe.