Sometimes it’s the little things that make me appreciate what a difference I can make in the lives of students.
I’m doing a pre-internship at Biltmore Elementary School in Jacksonville as part of my undergraduate training in special education. I recently was teaching a lesson on the sun and one student in particular was having a difficult time understanding the difference between a star and a planet. Every time I asked her what the sun was, she kept saying, “It’s a planet.” I didn’t think I was connecting with her. However, at the end of the lesson, I asked her to draw a picture of the sun and tell me one fact about it. When she drew the picture and underneath wrote the simple sentence “The sun is a star,” I knew I had connected with her.
That’s what my education at UNF has been all about — making connections. It’s one thing to read about transformational experiences in the University’s publications, but it’s another thing to actually experience the transformation by connecting with another human being.
I’m from a small town — Hilliard, Florida. The town has always felt like it’s where I was supposed to be. That’s how I feel at the University of North Florida. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but the first time I came to UNF, I made a connection. Among the trees, water and new friends, I found my place in this world.
I’m grateful to UNF for giving me an opportunity to work with kids, especially those with special needs. My brother was my inspiration. He is in special education and I love to watch the progress his teacher has made with him. I know that given the opportunity and right conditions, any child can learn. It was through him that I found the inspiration for the path I needed to take.
I’m also grateful to the Community First Credit Union of Florida and its president John Hirabayashi for supporting my endeavors with a scholarship.
UNF and the scholarship are allowing me to make this difference for kids like my brother. It’s that spark in their eyes when they make the connection between what is known and what isn’t known that has called me into this field. I want to be part of tomorrow’s future by giving children the tools they need to grow and learn and to think in new ways. My classes at UNF have been instrumental in fulfilling that dream. It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and listen to a professor in order to pass a test. However, it’s so much more rewarding to put those theories into practice, especially when you can make a difference in the world at the same time.