This evening, as I looked to the right and saw my husband...who rarely ever sheds a tear...with a few tears running down his face, the significance of the movie Hidden Figures truly hit home. I don't want to be a spoiler for anyone who has yet to see it, but this movie truly highlights the definition of perseverance and overcoming obstacles. The three main characters, African American women, simply couldn't and wouldn't take no for an answer, and in doing so, went on to make history.
What stood out for me was not just how far we have come as a country, but how far we still have to go, especially given the climate today. As educators, we are the beacon of hope for so many of our students entrusted to our care. Our girls, our ESL/bilingual students, our African American boys, our economically disadvantaged students...they are our hidden figures who need us to show them how they can overcome obstacles, and not allow someone else's perspective of what they think they are capable and worthy of, to become their reality.
Ironically, last Friday, I challenged our leadership team to do a task that was two-fold. It was the last day of College and Career Week and I asked each one on the team to pick a grade level, and visit a few classes with their diplomas and share their college experiences. Since January is also Random Acts of Kindness Month, I asked them to use the time they were in the class as a five-minute break opportunity for the teacher to grab a snack from the lounge. I knew that I was asking them to do "one more thing" on a Friday, when we had a three-hour leadership meeting already scheduled. The joy we all found in sharing our stories was priceless, for both those of us who were sharing and the students who hung on to every word.
I am hopeful, that one hidden figure...a Hispanic young lady in fifth grade...who came up to me after I shared that I was the first person in my family to attend college in the United States, earning three degrees and still thinking of going on to earn my doctorate...will realize that her status now of being an illegal immigrant, brought here by her parents, does not mean that she should not set goals and dream big dreams. We exchanged a tear in the hallway when I told her that I too was an illegal immigrant, brought to New York at the age of 12 by a single mom, who wanted me to have a better life than she did, just like her mom did, bringing her from Mexico. I walked away wiping the tear and hopeful that I planted a seed that will bear great fruit.
As I tucked my three sons into bed tonight, 9, 8 and 6 years old respectively, I realized that I have never shared that part of my life with them. Sundays are known as Story Sundays. Instead of reading a book, my husband and I take turns telling them stories from our childhood. Tonight, I shared the story of the heartache I suffered the year I graduated from high school, but could not go to college because I was still an illegal immigrant at the time. I also shared that the minute I was able to obtain my resident status, I immediately began applying to universities and never looked back, knowing that the one year I could not go off to college when all my friends were, was not going to define me.
Planting seeds, giving hope, inspiring our hidden figures...that is what we are called to do. Whether in our personal or professional lives, I am reminded today that my words and actions matter because there is always a hidden figure in my midst and I am responsible, as a citizen of the world, for helping someone else persevere - to persist in anything undertaken, maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles or discouragement, continue steadfastly. And I encourage you to do the same.