Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Saplings of Promise in the Gardens

Name: Savannah Kelly
From: Hialeah, FL
Grade: 11th
School: Hialeah-Miami Lakes Sr. High School
Votes: 40

asked what I loved most about my community, my mind struggled to see
beyond the violence that paints the streets red. Though Miami Gardens
is nicknamed “The Gardens,” I found no beauty in it: the flowers
were wilted and what remained had fallen to ruin. Growing up in my
community made me privy to the crime encapsulating it and hyper-aware
of the need for change. Despite politicians claiming they would
prioritize the safety of Miami Gardens every year, I still spend far
too many nights drifting asleep to the lullaby of Channel 7 News
reporting yet another child won’t make it home.

I took notes, the sirens of squad cars and ambulances rushing to a
nearby school drowned out my teacher’s lectures, epitomizing the
cracks within the city’s education system. I witnessed first-hand how
poor performance in the classroom transformed into delinquency on the
streets. The students that often skipped class and succumbed to
peer-pressure sought the attention they lacked in toxic friends and
destructive gangs. Their futures ended before they could start.

for a silver lining, I only saw rusted dreams. I sought to change the
stigma surrounding my community. Hence, I created a peer-mentoring
group to provide students with ample support and guidance,
opportunities previously denied. By introducing my peers to the
merits of advanced classes and club participation, they cultivated a
sense of ambition and community. I realized that the barrier
inhibiting my fellow teens wasn’t apathy but rather a lack of
positive influences at school and home. I became a liaison between my
peers and their schools, contacting nearby schools in search of
resources and involvement; however, my advances were greeted with
empty promises and unreturned phone calls.

my unfruitful endeavors, I searched for alternative means to my ends.
I discovered the Miami-Dade County Youth Commission, which utilizes
student leaders to identify and solve issues within their respective
school districts. Upon my year-long appointment to the commission, I
began to understand the gridlock I encountered in trying to establish
a relationship with neighboring schools. Bolstered with a fresh
perspective and re-directed energy, I delved into channels that would
allow me to better allocate resources and support to the students in
my community. Throughout my experience, I saw the effect that my
simple actions had on my peers and understood that I need to continue
my work to witness the change all children deserve.

friend of mine once said that college “wasn’t worth the effort,”
but he later told me that my dedication to academics inspired him to
apply to a few universities. Through him and countless others, I
started seeing a different side of my community. I saw a city whose
citizens remained strong despite tragedies and would give anything
short of their lives to support their neighbors. I saw a side of
Miami Gardens that news stations never attempted to showcase and
progress I needed to expand upon. Beneath the underbrush of faded
flora laid sprouting saplings of promise.

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