I watched, as he stood towering over the students. He began to tell his story of how he became a landscape engineer earning over $300,000 a year. How was that possible? That was much more than I had ever earned. He was my student and I remembered how unkempt he looked. He was tardy, struggled academically in class, did no homework and was extremely rebellious. He refused to follow the school’s strict uniform policy. But as I listened, he told his story—of unimaginable poverty and how he overcame. He wasn’t rebellious—he was just poor. He didn’t do homework because he lived in a home with no electricity and stood under a street light to get the work done whenever he could. He wore white shirts instead of blue because that was all he had. He came to school… when he could. And then I heard it. The answer! What ultimately propelled him to his destiny to overcome insurmountable odds! The encouraging words of teachers! I was speechless.
Like Martinus, there are thousands of children trapped in a system and cycle of poverty, all over the world, with little knowledge of how to get out. As educators, we wish we had the option to take them home when we see evidence of poverty in their lives, but alas we cannot. So how do we help them if helping is often tied up in bureaucracy, followed by an eternity of waiting to hear from authorities, agencies or child advocates, only to hear that the need exceeds the allocation of resources?
As a young girl, I loved to read. Somehow reading helped me escape to landscapes, shores I had never seen, horizons without limit and fragrances I had never imagined. But the power to transport into a world of my imagination, was not found in the books, but rather in the words. Whether we choose to accept it or not, words have power: life or death. Many dreams have been shipwrecked because of negative words. If dreams can be marooned with words, perhaps, words can be used to set dreams assail- ocean by ocean, child by child and school by school.
We dismantle the scarring effects of poverty by building our students. We build them through words of encouragement and through our belief that they can achieve, regardless of socioeconomic status, language limitation, cultural diversity or exceptionality. Every child can learn! We build them by creating a learning environment where they feel safe and celebrated, where instruction is filled with rigor and with passion. We build them with a reassurance that tomorrow belongs to those who hold on to today. We build them by equipping them with excellence and the tools and the skills they will need to traverse a globally and technologically changing environment. We build them by listening with a spirit of compassion and by sharing the international language of a smile that says: “I hear you, though I may not always be able to relate, I care.” For if we build them, they will learn!
Grand Canyon University strives to make sure every one of its students has the opportunity to succeed. To learn more about GCU’s education programs, visit the main website or click the Request More Information button on this page.
More about Valeriana:
Valeriana Bandeh is a graduate student currently completing her studies in TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Born on the tiny Caribbean island of St. Lucia to a family of 10 children, she spends much of her time writing and publishing multicultural short stories filled with humor and infused with positive lessons for teens. Being a lover of the arts and having a culturally diverse background, she works with children in an urban school district where her talents are most needed, changing one mind and one life at a time.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.