Lebron James, Misty Copeland, Simone Biles.
3 people with natural born talent that happened upon a sport/art that they were born to do. Simone Biles discovered gymnastics on a field trip. Lebron James was introduced to basketball by a local football coach. Misty Copeland started ballet in a free class at the Boys and Girls Club. The common thread connecting these three people is that despite being born into poverty, having unfit biological parents, or constantly moving to find financial stability, they were ultimately provided the opportunities they needed to develop their talent and become internationally renowned in their crafts.
Imagine if these incredible athletes had never had the nudge in the right direction. Imagine what the world would be missing if they hadn’t had the opportunity to explore what they were undeniably born to do.
Speaking as someone who was born in the Unites States and is now living in Mexico, there is a lot that I took for granted as an adolescent. At my public school I was able to participate in choir, compete in french language competition, play badminton, etc. At the public arts high school I attended for grades 11 and 12, I was taught to develop my talent, how to compose choreography, and I got to travel and perform around the state of Minnesota, experiences which prepared me for college and life as a dancer.
All of this was free.
In Mexico, not only is school not free, but most families struggle to pay their children’s tuition, hence the overwhelming drop out rate. Even in cases where kids can afford to stay in school, the curriculum in most places is antiquated and devoid of expression. The kids aren’t taught critical thinking or celebrated for their natural curiosity and creativity. They aren’t offered the wide array of extra-curricular activities that are state funded in the United States. They have to go out and find them and pay extra, which for most people is out of the question.
Let’s look at the alternative to completing school. Working in a factory. When I first met Arturo, my dance partner in training, he was working in a factory 40+ hours a week for $1,100 pesos. That’s give or take $65 USD. That wage was paid to him because he was one of the fortunate ones who did finish school. This wasn’t an entry level wage either, he had worked there for 3 years.
In the 1.5 years that I have been teaching independently in this country, I have encountered immense levels of talent and potential in the young people I teach. Unfortunately, heartbreakingly actually, what they possess in talent, they lack in financial resources. They are victims of a broken system. A system that doesn’t teach people to value themselves or give them opportunities to explore their potential.
Just last week I had two cancelled classes, one because the couple that I teach didn’t have enough money to pay for the bus to get to class, let alone pay their class fee. The second because my 11 year old student had to work.
You may be reading this and thinking about when you worked as a dishwasher or as a telemarketer, that everyone has to pay their dues. I don’t disagree. I worked 60 hours a week to help pay for my dance lessons. I worked and went to school full time and took extra hours of dance and competed nationally. In other words, I know work ethic when I see it. These kids aren’t lazy. They aren’t sitting back and waiting for your support. They are working and going to school and helping to support their families. They deserve the support and opportunity to be great. All that they lack is the money.
I encourage you, reader of this blog, to think back over your life. Think of the people who influenced your path. Think of the opportunities you were given, did you take them for granted? Did you consider them to be a right, not a privilege, like I did? Think of how many sports or arts programs or field trips you were able to partake in that expanded your view of the world and made you a more well-rounded individual. Think of the teachers, community leaders, coaches that fought for you, that encouraged you to be better.
This is what I am trying to be for these kids. This is what I am trying to create in my community and throughout Mexico. I have tried asking for government support, I have talked extensively with casa de cultura, and met with the state and muncipal government several times, with no luck. Now I am asking you, reader of this blog, if anything you read resonated with you, if you ever had a person or opportunity in your life that you were grateful for, please help me create that for these kids.
Help me discover and develop a Lebron James or Misty Copeland or Simone Biles. What you contribute today will have a profound impact on my students ability to thrive. You will never regret the time you helped someone follow their dreams.