Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Tutoring- The Key to Intellectual Prowess

Name: Jean-Akim Cameus
From: Georgetown, DE
Grade: 11th
School: Sussex Central High School
Votes: 0

The
humid breeze sends a whooshing sound through the holed bricks of my
quiet classroom. The room smells swampy and our wooden desks are
rotting. Our town of Gonaives, Haiti, had been flooded by the
devastating hurricane, Hannah. Since the flood, the white plastered
walls, had taken on a brown hue and a ragged texture. In front of the
classroom is a crooked chalkboard, with the words, “l’examen
d’etat” written on it. Students are hushed and busy scribbling
answers in their lined notebooks. The boys and girls have come in
their sharp olive green uniforms with red accents—creased shorts
for the boys and pleated skirts for the girls. In spite of the shabby
surroundings, students came dressed and ready to learn about Haitian
works of art, redaction, grammar, history, and mathematics. In spite
of the horrid conditions of the schoolhouse, it is where my
intellectual development and vitality began.

When
I was eleven years old, my family and I received the opportunity to
move to the United States. Adapting to the American culture proved
difficult at times. Mostly because of the fact that I was born and
raised in a predominantly Black nation. Generally, Haiti is viewed as
the most poverty-stricken country in the Western Hemisphere. A less
known fact about Haiti is that it is actually the world’s first
Black republic and the second nation in the Western Hemisphere to
gain its independence from a European power, after the United States.
In spite of bad conditions in Haiti, racism is not a problem. Black
culture and identity thrive there.

When
I moved to the United States, I was eleven years old. The only two
languages I spoke were Haitian Creole and French. As I became
proficient in English, I started to advance in my studies and expand
my vocabulary. In high school, I enrolled in rigorous AP and IB level
courses, and I was one of only two Black students in my school’s
most esteemed academic program. I realized that I needed to befriend
more Black kids at my school, so at lunch one day, I reached out to
Daryl, one of the most accomplished Black athletes in my school. At
the end of our conversation, he made a statement that surprised me.
With a look of derision, he said, “You have to be the whitest black
person I have ever met!”

I
felt deeply troubled by this statement. I asked myself, “What does
it mean to act white?” When Daryl commented on how articulate I am,
I realized that as far as my peers were concerned, I had been “acting
white” all along. This troubled me deeply because I am from a
predominantly Black nation, where race is not an indication of
intellect. But in America, intellectuality is a trademark of White
people. The Blacks in my school in Georgetown, Delaware, are known
for their athletic prowess, rather than for their intellect. Where I
come from in Haiti, Blacks succeed both inside and outside of the
classroom. Those stereotypes simply do not apply.

Now,
I have begun to reform my identity as a Black intellectual through
science. I remain curious about the science of powered flights, and
nuclear energy, and aspire to become both an aerospace engineer and a
nuclear physicist. I also currently serve as a mentor to the youth at
my local First Haitian Church of God, and to children at a nearby
elementary school. I helped the kids with their studies because it is
important that the new generation of Black students are encouraged to
be articulate, to remain intellectually curious, and to pursue their
academic interests. This is the best way to fight against the
stereotypes about Black people and bridge the race gap. I was taught
early on to be proud of my Black heritage. I continue to strive
academically, and fight the American perception that Blacks are less
intellectually capable.


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