Encouraging students to dream big

Gisela Martinez will be serving again next year as a Team Leader at Cureton.

Majors, minors, sports division, and dorms are words the students I serve at Cureton Elementary School weren’t very much familiar with until this past Thursday when our team held a College Fair in the after school program.

Not all communities get the same opportunities, especially low-income communities, like the ones City Year corps members volunteer in. Innocent children suffer from these economic inequalities.  Its clear children will define the future of our world.

So, I ask, why the injustice? Why are children from tougher economic backgrounds expected to dream less than others?

I grew up in an area very similar to East San Jose where the topic of college wasn’t talked about much, not at all for that matter. I know from firsthand experience that the limitation of resources in low-income communities, such as the one I’m from and the one I’m currently serving in, affect their accessibility to grow to their highest potential and hinder their ability to create a positive imagining for their future.  My biggest goal in elementary school was to simply graduate high school. College wasn’t a dream for me until as late as my sophomore year of high school.

This is the reason I serve. To be that resource. To help craft the children of today’s generation with wonderful dreams for their own future.

Dreams like, “looking forward to studying about criminology and med school stuff,” said by one of our 5th graders during the College Fair.

Inspired by a field trip to Stanford for some of the 4th and 5th graders a couple of weeks before, I decided to organize a City Year College Fair to get students in all grades at Horace Cureton Elementary excited about college and a limitless future.

I knew that my team of first year corps members had an impressive and diverse collegiate background. Stanford University, Penn State, Fordham University, Harvard, West Virginia University, Drew University, Brown University, and The University of Rochester were all represented at the College Fair. We each contacted our Alma Mater or soon-to-be university for some type of informational material and we received an abundance of magnets, posters, sports schedules, stickers and brochures for our kids.

Students from 1st -5th grade were able to walk freely through each station and stay as long as they wanted to question each of us about our studies, reasons we attended college, why we picked our majors and general experiences. An overwhelming feeling of joy and pride rushed through me while I watched our 1st– 5th graders’ eager faces asking questions and getting excited about the classes they can take and the clubs they can join.

The day ended with groups of kids chanting, “HARVARD!”, “WVU!”, and “FORDHAM!!” and other groups retaliating and cheering, “STANFORD!! STANFORD!! STANFORD!!” To this day, kids are still chanting the school names they want to attend, letting me know that my team and I have rooted a fun and positive outlook for their future and potential, fulfilling my purpose to serve and the reason for me continuing to serve the remarkable students of Cureton Elementary.

Gisela Martinez, Corps Member CYSJ 

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One thought on “Encouraging students to dream big

  1. I couldn’t be more proud of you Tesoro. Those kids are so lucky and their future looks so much brighter thanks to City Year and kids like you. Love you, Mom.

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