My background is rooted in East Harlem. I lived in Wagner Public Housing on 123rd and 2nd avenue before moving to Atlanta when I was ten years old.
The first ten years I spent in Harlem were completely different than the last eleven I spent in Atlanta. Life was a lot harder at first and opportunity was rare. My mother always knew she wanted better for me. She knew that living in the community we were in would add extra challenges to my life that would make success harder.
At the time, nobody in our family went to college. In fact, many of our family members dropped out of high school. She knew she wanted to show me something different.
Never would I have thought that when I chose a career, I would choose to come back to the community I’m from. A community described by some as desolate, impoverished, and broken. However, looking through my lens, I see a community of culture, strength, and untapped potential.
Choosing to come back to my roots and teach kids who are just like me racially, culturally, and at one point economically was one the easiest decisions I’ve ever made and certainly my greatest accomplishment thus far.
Let me share why.
Since I was five years old, my mom would ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Like many kids at that age, I would say singer, president, or pretty much anything that came to mind at the time.
Then, as I approached middle school, she would ask the same question. Now, a bit more mature, I’d say things like doctor or lawyer, although, I still really had no idea.
Then high school came around and the familiar question was asked again. At this point, she was expecting real answers; after all, college was just around the corner.
I had no rationale behind why, besides the fact that dentists made a lot of money. However, that shortly changed after my first interaction with pre-calculus, science, and coming to the realization that I actually hate saliva. Then, I decided on international studies. I thought for sure I had finally figured it out.
Not too long after my first day of classes, I was in my advisor’s office changing my major, yet again.
So finally, well into my sophomore year I settled on public relations. It was marketable and seemed interesting. I thought to myself, well, I guess this will do. Although I finally settled on a major, I was still so unsure of what I wanted to be when I grew up and being all grown up was quickly approaching.
As expected, that familiar, daunting question faced me again, but this time I had no choice but to make a decision.
Wow, this was a big decision. As you may have noticed, I am a very indecisive person but ironically I went into my senior year knowing exactly what I wanted to do once I graduated. I knew I wanted to begin a career rooted in transformational change.
When I think of transformational change I think about my journey toward success. I was born to a poor, single mother, who decided she wanted better.
In turn, I am returning back to Harlem. To instill a love for education in kids that are similar to me with the expectation that these kids use their education to succeed and model success for generations to come.
It’s kind of poetic how full circle my “big decision” worked out. I have the opportunity to return back to my old neighborhood and give kids the opportunity to have a great education.
For many of the kids I teach, education is their only way to a better life, just like it was mine. My hope is that these kids go off to college and gain a treasure chest of experiences and opportunities and return back to their neighborhoods and invest their skills and talents into their community.
That is what a career in transformational change looks like to me.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”–Nelson Mandela