Is the American Dream at risk? To mark the 20th anniversary of America’s Promise Alliance – and to support our campaign to encourage people, organizations, and communities to #Recommit2Kids – we asked our youth leaders to reflect on this question. This perspective is the third in a special series on the topic. For more perspectives, read Here is Where Hope Lies and When the American Dream Turns Into American Need.
I will never forget the moment I stopped dreaming. I was in the seventh grade, struggling.
I didn’t feel confident, because I lost all of my hair to a condition called Alopecia. I woke up one morning completely bald, and I was heartbroken in every way. I started struggling with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
I didn’t feel safe either. I was being bullied in school, and I received several threats digitally and in-person from my peers. I lived in constant fear that I would be hurt or ridiculed because of my condition. Most of all, however, I didn’t want to learn. I lost a love of learning that had always been such a big part of my life.
It was a combination of these factors that took away my ability to dream. The idea of the American Dream began to seem less and less realistic. My American Dream was at risk.
Thankfully, after hitting rock bottom, I was able to pick myself up and choose self-love. I slowly found the courage to accept my condition, go without my wig, and start a nonprofit organization called The Love Your Natural Self Foundation.
I consider myself lucky. I had several mentors who invested in me and helped me pick myself back up during my dark time. I went to a school that had resources for bullying and mental health. I received service opportunities that I used to heal my pain.
Many students don’t have these opportunities. This lack of opportunity puts the American Dream at risk for young people around the nation.
The key to creating a better America where every young person has more of an equal chance to succeed is truly focusing on the well-being of our students.
Today, I have rediscovered my ability to dream. I use my nonprofit organization to provide confidence-building curriculum to students around the nation. I believe that only when students believe in themselves, will they be able to believe in their dreams.
There is no one right answer in making the American Dream accessible to all of our students. The best thing we can do, however, is invest in our students. Invest in the area you are most passionate about. For me, that is self-love and self-confidence. For others, this could be mentoring or creating safe spaces.
At the end of the day, though, investing in the hearts, minds, and successes of our students means investing in the success of the world.
Ready to #Recommit2Kids? Learn more here.