MELBA — I recently had a life-changing, one-day experience where I learned some important things about myself that I probably already knew, but I guess wasn’t ready to say out loud.
I learned that when adults outside your immediate family really take the time to listen to what you’re saying, they can provide the kind of support and encouragement that can be hard to get from peers.
The event was called Dream Big, and it was organized by Teach for America-Idaho (TFA). I’m an eighth grader at Melba Junior/Senior High School, and my new earth science teacher, Ms. Hanna Jackson, is a first-year TFA Corps Member. She told me about Dream Big and encouraged me to go.
It was held on a Saturday at the Treasure Valley YMCA Camp at Horsethief Reservoir. The idea was to get us away from home for a full day, to spend time with teachers outside of school, and to explore together our dreams for the future.
I have a lot of aspirations for myself, but I don’t always feel comfortable talking about them. Ever since I was in fourth grade, one of my goals has been to attend Harvard University and become a lawyer. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever knew why I wanted to be a lawyer, other than you can make a good living that way and I like to help people.
When I first got to Dream Big and was asked about my dreams for the future, I said what I always say: I want to go to Harvard and I want to be a lawyer. People asked what kind of lawyer, and I didn’t really know. It was always the same.
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But then one of the event leaders suggested that instead of saying what we wanted to do, to examine what our passions are. I didn’t even have to think. I just blurted out, “I really love to write.”
I was sitting with a couple of other students and three TFA teachers — Ms. Jackson and Mr. Bryson Vasey and Mr. Drew Strickert, who teach at Payette High School. They immediately took it deeper and started asking me what it was I loved about writing, and what I liked to write about.
It was amazing how much interest they showed in me. Normally if I say to someone that I like to write the response I get is, “Oh well, that’s cool I guess,” or “You’ll never make it in that field.”
But the teachers at Dream Big encouraged me to pursue my passion. As soon as I said out loud how much I love to write, and that maybe being an author is something I’d like to pursue, it was like a huge weight was lifted off my chest.
And instead of trying to steer my thinking to something that might seem more practical, the teachers and even some of the other kids encouraged me to pursue my passion for writing.
During that day, as I thought more about writing, I started to realize that it has been my passion for a while. At Melba Elementary School we had a monthly program called Melba Writes. Every month we were given a prompt and had to write a paper based on it. Thinking back, it was probably the most enjoyable part of elementary school for me.
When Dream Big ended and I went home, I started writing every day. I was already taking an online creative writing class, and now I felt inspired to adopt my own style and to choose topics I want to write about, instead of what I thought might be expected of me.
I used to mostly write from a generic perspective, an average girl like me. But the other day I wrote about a male poet, and about a girl on her tree swing. I pick what might seem like oddball topics and when I write these pieces I finally feel comfortable with myself.
I also play piano a little bit, violin and drums, and since coming back from Dream Big, I find that I’m more passionate about music as well. I think it’s because the experience opened my eyes to what is important to me, not just academically, but emotionally and mentally. I don’t worry if other kids think I’m a “dorky” for playing in the school band.
I still want to go to Harvard, but now I want to spend a semester at Oxford studying English or literature. I feel excited about my future. Being an author might seem like a long shot, but after Dream Big, and the experience of people actually caring about what I want to do, I believe it’s something I can achieve if I try hard enough.
Written by Lindi Dice, a Melba student who attended the Dream Big event at Y Camp at Horsethief Reservoir last month.