Opinion: “Education is a tidal wave that spreads far and wide”

My name is Sujeidy De Jesus. I am a first generation Dominican college graduate. I graduated this past May from the University of New Haven. I am the first of my family to have graduated from a 4-year university and feel so proud to have done so. It is my family’s relentless support that has pushed me through the years and kept me grounded. I grew up in Boston, MA in a community in which I was surrounded by many cultures. My family always stressed the importance of being a proud Latina. To me and my family, being Latina means being proud of our culture and values, and always remembering the importance of family.

This fall, I will teach 5th grade English Language Arts in Lawrence, MA and I could not be more excited. I am looking forward to meeting my students and working relentlessly to be the great teacher they deserve. I am also looking forward to working in a community in which so many of my students and their families are Dominican.  I cannot wait to learn even more about my own culture — making connections with my students and their families is a huge part of the reason I decided to join this movement.

I decided to apply to Teach For America my senior year of college when working at LEAP, an afterschool academic enrichment program in New Haven. I worked with 15 energized and unbelievably bright 3rd, 4th and 5th grade girls. Every day from 2-5pm, we worked on reading skills, math skills, social skills and leadership qualities. As cliché as it may sound, those girls taught me just as much as I taught them. I had one student,, who struggled with math and often sought my assistance during Homework Help Time. One day when I was helping her with her rounding homework, I taught her a trick that my math teacher had taught me back in the day to figure out whether to round up or down. Two days later, during Homework Help Time another student called me over to ask for help with rounding numbers. She interjected, saying “I’ll help you; Ms. Sujeidy taught me a trick the other day.”

In that moment, I fully realized the key role I could play. Education is a tidal wave that spreads far and wide.  Working with my students made me realize that every one of us can make a difference in the education of our youth. In applying to Teach For America, I became familiar with their vision statement: “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” One day is possible if we all work together towards this goal.

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