I wanted to break out of my shell and do something different
My parents moved to the U.S. over 20 years ago. My dad came first, after traveling to multiple nations across the globe and settled for New York City as his new home. My mother came on vacation with her parents to see the “City that never sleeps.” My parents somehow crossed path and soon got married in a quaint and elegant ceremony taken place in their home.
With a new life ahead of them, my parents had two choices: join the job force or try to enroll in college for a degree. With all the stigma attached to immigrants on top of my parents not knowing English, they had to make the obvious choice of forgoing education and finding “odd” jobs to make ends meet. Before I even entered the world, my parents’ inability to pursue education and literacy would define my future.
Literacy was a strong hindrance in the household. With no more than high school diplomas from back home my parents were not able to keep up with the changes of the 90s and 00s such as computers, smartphones, etc. Jobs that seemed like science fiction in movies were no reality. Whilst other children played with dolls, I was responsible for translating parent teacher conferences and paying the electric bill with the customer service rep over the phone.
My parents were a reminder from an early age about the inequity in education. They had to make the choice of feeding their children and working odd jobs versus taking English classes which they wouldn’t have time for anyways. The more they worked they more they also started to lose proficiency in their native language from years of inability to use it.
I saw this as an Opportunity rather than a weakness. Unfortunately I was rather “shy” to speak up in school due to the racism and bullying in a post 9/11 world so I looked to books as my escape. EVERY Saturday, rain or shine, you would expect to see me at the library- reading science, comic, mystery, poetry, you name it. I was very lucky to grow up in a community that treasures resources for children and I was able to make use of many classes and programs for working class families and I was able to perform academically throughout school. Culturally, I was educated by living in a diverse borough (Queens) where I was able to learn Spanish as well as continue speaking English and my native language Bangla.
I realized this wasn’t a case for other families. I came across a Facebook ad recruiting “ambassadors” for The World Literacy Foundation. A completely unknown organization, yet it’s mission fulfilled all the roles I was looking for. Up until then, I was always quite shy to speak out but I knew my writing and networking skills would come in handy for this global community. I wanted to break out of my shell and do something different.
I won’t go too much into the results of the work I did during my two years (2019/2020) as a WLF ambassador because the message is behind me willing to take a leap of faith and doing something new. The greatest highlight was being able to connect with people of all backgrounds across the globe of varying ages, religions, careers, races, etc. In fact I still keep in touch with fellow ambassadors and I was able to get invited by Rosario from WLF to lead a advocacy webinar for current 2022 ambassadors! She found me from a 3 year old email where I had expressed interest in continuing my journey with WLF. You never know what life throws at you so The most important message in life is you DON’T have to be great to start you have to START to be great!
Author: Stephanie Reza
Country: United States