The YMCA of Greater Boston held an association-wide essay contest in the spring, asking teens to tell us about their dreams and how the YMCA is helping them. We received many wonderful submissions and decided the contest would not only have a winner, Kasanda Baptista, but also two runners up!
We want to share with you Andres Magra’s inspiring and winning essay. Andres was a runner up in the contest and teen member of the Huntington Avenue YMCA. Stories like his show the importance of all youth being given the opportunity to discover themselves in a safe, fun and educational environment.
Andres Magra: I Dream Big
Branch: Huntington YMCA
I come from a family where gaining success through education has not always been the focus of life. I was born in a small city of the Dominican Republic called Santo Domingo. After my immigration to the United States and becoming a member of the Huntington YMCA, I realized that gaining an education would be the key for me to become a successful engineer. I found the transition to a new country extremely difficult. Striving to learn a new language helped me become accustomed to my new home. I found that becoming a responsible adolescent would open up more opportunities in the future.
Growing up outside of the United States gave me the opportunity to appreciate a different perspective on how a society values education. Life in the Dominican Republic is very different from life in the United States. For example, the government does not have the resources to prioritize a strong school system.
By the time I was 10, I became a member of the YMCA and every day after school they helped me with my homework, which was difficult to understand as a native Spanish speaker. Not only did the YMCA provide me assistance with my homework, they helped me escape the difficulties caused from living in low-income housing by slowly integrating me into a new home. The Y created a haven of acceptance regardless of race or wealth.
Moving to the United States was a drastic change for me. It was shocking and overwhelming. I was placed in a school where English was the primary language and did not have any support for native Spanish speakers. Mastering this new language would be an important building block in my education. I was able to grasp the English language because the Y offered me a free after school environment where I received more attention. After two years I had become fluent. Now, I don't think twice when speaking with someone in English. Persevering and working hard with attentive YMCA staff has opened up doors I never knew existed.
Along with helping me overcome the language barrier, the YMCA has played a crucial part in helping me prepare for admission to college. They also helped me become an asset to my community. At the Y I am a member of a group called Male Achievement Academy. There I have learned the values of being part of a community and how to make safe decisions as a young man of color. The YMCA has given me opportunities and tools to become successful.
Coming to the United States as a young child made me yearn for success. The migration from one country to the next was difficult but the Y eased the pressure that oppressed me. I faced many battles but with the help of the YMCA members I overcame them. My ambition along with the support of the YMCA has encouraged me to fulfill my dreams of becoming a successful engineer. Without the YMCA I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Dream Big: Making Dreams Reality
We believe all children deserve to be given the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve. Many people know of the YMCA of Greater Boston, but there's so much more to our YMCA than one may think. From athletics to academic achievement, gymnastics to global education and basketball to volunteerism, the YMCA doesn't just strengthen bodies. We strengthen people, families and communities. In Greater Boston, the YMCA provides nearly $2.1 million in direct scholarships for children and teen programs so our youth can reach their true potentials and beyond. Together, we can make our communities better.
Please join us for our Dream Big Party, being held on October 23, 2013, where we will celebrate the BIG hopes and dreams of the youth in our programs. Funds raised through your participation will allow over 35,000 youth all around the Greater Boston area to take part in our programming next year. Active and bright minds lead to healthy development and together, we can make many more dreams, like Andres Magra's, come true.