I still remember the sound of screaming mothers. I remember the dust that made it hard to breathe. I remember feeling afraid my house was going to collapse on me. I fled, yelling and screaming. I spotted my mom and dad, covered in dust with disbelief in their eyes. I was shaking because I had heard of earthquakes, but experiencing one—it took my breath away. That night, dead bodies lined the streets. I lived to say that I am a survivor of a massive earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people in my home country of Haiti.
In the chaos that followed, my parents sent me to live in Brooklyn, N.Y. with my sister. I started my educational career at the local public elementary school. No one at the school spoke my language of Creole and no one seemed interested in helping me learn the English language. In 5th grade, I was reading at a kindergarten level, struggling to connect with my peers because of the language barrier—my self-esteem was at an all-time low. I was ashamed of the way my country and my people were being portrayed on television and I was ashamed of my struggle.
I began to search for other schools I could attend that might be able to better help me and that's when I found Achievement First Endeavor Middle School. My sister entered me in the school’s lottery and I got a spot! For the first time, I had teachers who saw a brighter future for me. I started to improve my grades by working hard in my classes to make the most of the opportunity. Slowly, as I began to excel, my self-esteem grew. I made friends and gained confidence. During my last quarter of school, I finished my senior year with a GPA of over 4.0.
What my journey taught me, is the only thing standing between me and success was self-confidence and hard work. When I first came to the United States, I was afraid to dream big—afraid that as a Haitian immigrant, I wasn’t worth it. But, eventually, I became determined to prove people wrong. That is why I can announce today—as a proud Haitian-American—that I will be studying international business this fall through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Oswego University.
Dab Christian is a 2018 graduate of Achievement First Brooklyn High School.
This blog is a part of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' celebration of #CharterGrads.