At a very young age, I learned that education was power that cannot be taken away from you because it is engrained in you, but only seen through your actions. Six years ago, this prophecy became a reality for me as I forged to educate and build bridges of understanding among people of all faiths in the aftermath of September 11th , while my son served at ground zero for six months at the age of 19. My city was hurting and ailing as I was and many others around the country from the devastation of the tragedy and the backlash and discrimination.
By day I was a teacher and by night a lecturer or workshop facilitator around the city and beyond. All in the name of bridging the divide to help people overcome their fears of the other. When I would first walk into any speaking engagement I was perceived as the other and half way through my presentation I became one of them. Night after night that became my routine. Through those speaking engagements, I met wonderful people who fell into my arms for comfort or simply requested a hug or hand shake for my words that touched them deeply.
I was able to connect with people in a way that was profound to them, but unexplainable to me. One friend called it divine favor! And to this day, I can’t explain it. I am grateful for this gift that has connected me with humanity on many levels where I start as a stranger who is then seen as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a teacher and a friend. This gift was nurtured by my teaching skills, which forced me to stand in front of a class of children in the NYC public school system to students in graduate classes on a university level.
Being an educator has allowed me to touch the lives of so many who have developed into amazing young men and women. A wise old man once said to me, “Education is power that no one can take away from you because it is engrained in you where it cannot be touched, but only seen through your actions.” I believe actions of valuing difference and appreciating people for who they are regardless of where they come from is power. I believe actions of bridging the gaps among communities is power. And most importantly being in touch with your humanity and the humanity of others is power.
This lesson on education has helped me connect with people of diverse backgrounds to envision the development of a school that will value and celebrate differences. It will be a school that aims to teach students the skills for building bridges of understanding through community, connection and learning that education is power. This school I believe will make a difference in the world.
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