Name: A'Nia DuRant
From: Hopkins, South Carolina
School: Lower Richland High School
5 Year-Old Changed My Life
For the past 5 years, I have worked in my church’s nursery almost every Sunday. It started as a way to get escape my family for a while during church, as I was not an extremely religious person, but it soon transformed into an amazing experience that I look forward to every week.
The first day I arrived, I noticed a girl who seemed very distant from the other children. I assumed that she was troubled and was very dismissive of her. Soon, I realized that Cheyanne was not intentionally distant, she was much more independent than other children her age and reminded me a lot of myself. Her anachronistic ways separated her from the others and labeled her as difficult to the other volunteers. Despite her troubles with other members of the volunteer team, Cheyanne was incredibly open to me and was compliant with most of my directions. Unbeknownst to me, this compliance didn’t go unnoticed by the other volunteers or the nursery director.
Days when I absent, were the days when Cheyanne was the worst. Stories of my beloved Cheyanne biting, kicking, and yelling at other children always seemed to circulate back to me the next week. Things got so bad that it became imperative that I call Cheyanne’s guardian before I missed a day in the nursery.
When Christmas time came, Cheyanne says to me, “For Christmas, could you please paint my nails as pretty as yours?” Her request was so simple I was more than happy to treat her to a manicure. She’d picked a very vivacious pink and was elated at the finished product. Once her nails were polished, she dug deep into her bag and handed me a gift card and a hand written note that said “Thank you for being nice to me. Merry Christmas. Love, Cheyanne” I was more than grateful, because I felt that we’d built a strong relationship.
After the church service, Cheyanne’s grandmother approached me and said “I hope Cheyanne gave you your gift today. Ever since her mother died and her father left, she has been failed time and time again by the system. You are the only constant thing in her life right now, and I can see the change you are making in her.” I was floored. In all of time I’d spent with her, I never knew the troubles she was facing. She is the bravest 5 year-old I have ever met. The strong, independent young girl was an orphan and still managed to be able to open herself up to me.
Cheyanne taught me that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others and that I had a passion for teaching. A girl who began as my biggest trouble-maker, turned out to be my biggest satisfaction and most influential teacher. Without Cheyanne, I would not be the person I am today, and I would not be pursuing a career in education.