This month, beginning with National Charter Schools Week, we will feature stories from charter school graduates from across the country. Check back every day to see a new student feature in our 30 Days of Grad series.
My name is Sandy Dessources, last year I graduated from City on a Hill Charter Public School in Boston, Massachusetts, and it is my dream to become an attorney. I want to spend my career fighting to eliminate the systemic obstacles facing women in both Haiti and America, and I feel confident that City on a Hill helped me to build the foundation that will make my dream a reality.
In order to fully understand where my dreams come from and how I plan to get there, I’d like to tell you a bit about myself. My family is from the island of Hispaniola, more formally known as Haiti. As a country fighting a war of revival since its independence from the French in 1805, there is strong French influence and cultivating art, but also extreme poverty and corruption and a shortage of resources and opportunity.
Despite these conditions, my family was rather well off in Haiti. My mother was a nationally recognized hairdresser, providing services to many Haitian diplomats. My father was the head accountant at a bank. My parents seemed to live fairly protected and they always felt pretty safe—until my mother was six months pregnant with me and held at gunpoint by radical political officials. Without much hesitation my parents decided that after giving birth to me, it would be best to move to a country where its citizens felt safe and could live without constant fear. Most importantly, they did not want me to grow up thinking that as a woman I did not deserve a great education and ambitious dreams.
This move was not easy for my family. When we arrived in America, my parents could not speak, read, or write in English. My father had to work three jobs in order to make ends meet. But they were determined to give me the opportunity to get a strong education.
When I started school at age five, my English was far from perfect, and I was already behind academically. In fact, it wasn’t until I got through my 9th grade year at City on a Hill that I felt comfortable speaking in front of my peers and realized that even though I was not born in the United States, I could perform as well as my classmates.
Walking through the doors at City on a Hill for the first time, I was in total awe. The walls were freshly painted and I could tell that the school was cared for. The teachers were professionally dressed and overly prepared for the school day. I could already tell it was different from any school I had previously experienced, yet the students felt familiar to me. We were from diverse backgrounds, but all of us were adjusting to high school and being one step closer to our dream of college. However, City on a Hill was a challenge.
The school day began promptly at 7:45 a.m. and went until 3:30 p.m., a big change from the 8 a m. to 2 p.m. schedule that I was used to. We were overloaded with homework, and the tests and quizzes were unbelievably hard! I missed middle school. I had not realized how unprepared I was. And yet with the support of my teachers, I continued to persevere. I knew my teachers challenged me because they cared about my future. And so did I.
At City on a Hill, I have learned many things—core academic subjects like Spanish, civics, English, and statistics, as well as equally important life skills such as professionalism, public speaking, and leadership. I have been taught rational thinking and how to use facts to support my arguments, which I will clearly need to be successful in law school. City on a Hill has even taught me something that seems almost impossible for most teens: to wake up on time and be prepared for the upcoming school day...well, on most days.
City on a Hill teaches students that smart is not something you are; smart is something you become through hard work. But I would add that you become smart through a combination of hard work and opportunity. The opportunity to have a high school experience like mine is sadly one that too few urban, low-income students have. Many students are not offered the intense support from their school communities like I have received at City on a Hill.
Last year on National College Decision Day, I chose between attending four incredible schools—American University, Brandeis University, College of the Holy Cross, and George Washington University! I selected George Washington University and now I'm finishing up my freshman year.
If you were to ask me what makes City on a Hill so special, I would say it is two things - the commitment of the staff and the fact that at City on a Hill dreams are limitless. City on a Hill has taught me that I can and must make positive change in my community. Through City Project, City on a Hill’s capstone public policy course, I have studied youth violence, a subject obviously very close to my heart. I applied for and earned an internship at the Egleston Square YMCA where I am focused on identifying solutions to combat teen violence in our city. At City on a Hill, we are all gearing up for great futures - as college graduates, attorneys, nurses, neuroscientists, and citizens.