I Learn Library

A human library inspired by the stories in the film

I plan to use my opportunity to make it worthwhile.

By Udeme  |   From : Nigeria  |   School : University Neighborhood High School (New York)

West Africa, Nigeria is a country for its rich natural resources like petroleum. Waking up on a weekday by the sounds of a crowing rooster, smelling dough from bread seller’s bread, who yells  “buy fineeeeee! Bread” and my mother yelling “Udeme! Nekeda kisun idam!!” to get me ready for school. I shout in reply, “Ma! I am up!!” Walking under the hot scorching sun as sweat drenched my face on a three mile walk to school, sadly my life was much better compared to several other kids. As I trekked to school, kids my age, nine years old and older were carrying trays of fruits, chips on their heads instead of going to school. I kept thinking I have the opportunity to go to school because my parents could afford to buy books, pay my school fees, but these kids don’t. I felt that I should work harder and be appreciative instead of taking the opportunity many kids want for granted.

My mother spent her teenage years and young adult life trying to pursue an education, but had no one to push her to go further. She lived a life of Disney’s Cinderella, where her stepmother and stepsister made her a maid in her father’s house. Her father never cared about her education as he said, “A woman always ends in a man’s kitchen”, but my mother never allowed that define her because she completed her primary school education. Later on, she went back to the village to stay with her mother to complete high school education. It wasn’t easy, she had to clear large farms with just a cutlass, extract oil from palm fruits and sell cassava at the market to pay for her education, and at the age of 24, she completed her high school education at the top of her class. My mother couldn’t go to college, but she made sure to stress the importance of an education as she said, “Education is your light through a world full of darkness.” Her words resonate with me, even more, when I came to the United States with her.

My mother’s youth experience made me appreciate my education even more as an immigrant from West Africa, Nigeria. I had the opportunity to accomplish going to school with a free education system in the United States without worry of my next school fees. In New York City, I had an even better lifestyle when I traded my rooster for my a smartphone.

However, while trying to get an education in New York City, I faced prejudice many immigrants in a new country face, discrimination. In high school, I faced discrimination by another classmate, who made me feel unwelcomed. My partner and I completed our board for a business fair when we decided to help another group decorate. Another student, outside of my class period when she heard we were helping another group was upset. I told her that we couldn’t help her because we didn’t share the same period for business class. I suppose that she thought that I was lying when she told me to “go back to your country, we don’t need you here.” Those words made me feel insignificant because I was from a different country, for the first time I felt homesick. I felt so depressed, shed so many tears, and about giving up my dream of going to school. I shared with my mom the heartache that I was going through and as a Christian, she used examples Christians being persecuted in the Bible; Steven never gave up on his faith as he was stoned to death. Several months passed as the I read the Bible, which became my source of strength. When I bumped into my bully again, I panicked and wanted to hide, but I remembered my mother’s words and persecuted in the bible, who taught me to never give up on my dream of education. I stared at her eye to eye, although I never told her she hurt me so much, but I still talked to her like any other classmate and learned to forgive her like many persecuted in the bible did to their tormentors.

I realized that I was passionate and I would like to solve the issue of immigrant discrimination. I know that New York is a melting pot of immigrants and that I was not alone with my experiences. Some steps that could  be taken to solve immigrant discrimination will be a campaign online, for example, #wearepeople2 and campaigns at middle and high school, where a spokesperson will talk to kids about the effect of discriminating others from a different country. Especially in this time period of President Trump, who speaks ill of immigrants. Educating people, who are ignorant about immigrants will let them know immigrants have feelings and aren’t so different from them. I believe this will prevent many immigrants from having similar experiences like mine.

Empowering other immigrants, I want to show them that they can overcome any obstacles they may face just like my mother and the bible taught me. I never gave up on my dreams of going to school, as of now in high school I take college now classes, A.P U.S History and even took workshops to find an internship in the medical field that I want to pursue in college. With these resources at my fingertips, I vow to never fall down from the wagon of education and waste any opportunity. For every child in Nigeria, who can’t go to school, I plan to use my opportunity to make it worthwhile.

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