1This is my college essay, and I'm very proud of it! I hope you like it as much as I do! :-)
Note: many names of places and people have been changed or put in parenthesis and omitted for security reasons.
Before the age of eleven, I never wanted to be a teacher. My mother taught, my brother was then studying to become a teacher, and it seemed to me that all my friends wanted to become something affiliated with children. I, on the other hand, wanted to be different: I wanted to become a cartoonist, or an FBI agent, or a voice actress - something unusual. Teachers aren't unusual, therefore I didn't want to be one. "Everyone's a teacher," I thought; "why would I want to be like everyone?"
The summer before I turned twelve, my mother was the summer special education teacher at (name) Elementary school (the school I had just "graduated" from) in (mytown), (mystate). I had nothing to do on those long, lazy, hot days, and she had no one to watch me, so she decided to have me tag along, persuading me to go by telling me I was to be the assistant teacher of the classroom. Not knowing that this position was phony enticement brought on by the lack of babysitters that summer, I felt that my duty as "assistant teacher" was far too important to pass up (of course, at the time I didn't know that I had no choice in the matter). So, I hesitantly put down my drawing utensils that were, at the time, preparing me for my career as an artist, and climbed into the car with my mother on that hot, sticky July day. As much as I'd learned about teaching from my mother and brother, nothing prepared me for what I was to find, and learn, in that classroom.
What I found that day was a class full of children who were just a few years younger than me, yet these weren't the kids I was used to seeing in school. These kids had many profound disorders, such as mental retardation, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome - all these disorders that I'd heard about, but were, until then, only abbreviations and words to me. There was Stuart: a little boy who had been born normal, except he had to have part of his brain removed to get rid of a tumor that had grown there during his mother's pregnancy. There was Chris: an extremely intelligent, bi-lingual girl who's only disability was her confinement to a wheelchair and trouble speaking, both due to CP. There was Laura: a beautiful, blonde-haired, seven-year old who had lost oxygen to her brain when she was an infant, causing her to need an intricate wheelchair for the rest of her life and taking away her ability to communicate except with a big, amazing, toothy smile. I was astonished at the different types of children I was seeing in this room. Why had they been hidden from me for most of my life? That day, I learned that people like this had been put on this earth to teach us how lucky we are to just be alive. You don't need money or a successful life to enjoy living: these kids were doing it even with their impairments. From that summer on, I knew that I was lucky to have the ability to live the life I was living, and the reason that I was living without complications like these was to teach these people the things that I know to the best of my ability, and in return, allow them to teach and show me the thing that not every human understands: what life is really about. I was going to be a special education teacher.
After two summers in that classroom, my mother left (name) School's special education department to become a preschool teacher, and therefore I had to leave, too. However, I continued with my work in special education at a special needs camp called Camp (name) in (town), (mystate). My brother had worked there for years, and until now, I had not been interested in it. But the summer before I turned fourteen, I decided to volunteer there. I learned all about the camp from training: each volunteer was paired up with a camper each week, and would bring them around to all of their activities throughout the day. There were two residential programs, the first being shorter than the second, and they were for the older campers (ages ten to sixty). This camp seemed appealing to me because I knew I enjoyed working with special needs people, and because it would give me a real feel for the type of work that I wanted to pursue in the future. No matter how appealing, however, this camp became a much larger part of my life than I could have ever imagined.
It was during my third summer at the camp that I began to receive the harder campers. I found that the more the challenge, the more the experience it was for me. I was addicted to camp: I couldn't get enough of the lessons and rewarding smiles from the campers. There was one smile, however, that really stuck in my mind.
It was week three of my third year. It was a hot and dry Monday morning, and new campers were coming in off the buses. I had just arrived at camp when a familiar figure was being lowered off the wheelchair lift of one of the buses. I ran over to see if it was who I thought, and it was: Laura, the beautiful blonde girl from my mother's classroom those first two summers! Laura was coming to camp for the week! I was elated to see her, and saddened that I hadn't received her for my camper that week. As the days went by, I would catch a glimpse of Laura in the other group of campers as they passed by to go to their activities, but I never got to see her to say hello until that Thursday. My camper had called in sick, so I was asked to help out with a camper in Laura's group. As I sat next to her in Arts and Crafts, I finally got a chance to say hello. I looked over to her, and said "hi, Laura, remember me?" She looked at me quizzically. I tried again: "I'm Ariana...Melanie's daughter. Do you remember?" She held her blank expression for a moment, and then, as if she were suddenly struck with the memory, she smiled the biggest, tooth-filled smile I had ever seen her give and began to laugh a loud, delighted laugh. I was absolutely amazed: she had remembered me after nearly three years of absence. After that experience, I knew more than ever that I had been destined to become a special education teacher: if she had remembered me, I had made some sort of impact in her life. One thing is for sure, she had definitely made an impact in mine.
Before I knew it, I had been at the camp for four summer straight, with almost 1,000 hours of service. This past summer, I received the "Volunteer of the Year" award. I've had the opportunity to work one-on-one with more than twenty different campers, all ranging in age, ability, and personality, and I've learned from many, many more. I took an American Sign Language class in order to be of more help to those campers who use ASL, and I use the lessons from that class frequently to teach myself more words and symbols to further my ability to communicate with signers. I plan to apply for staff at Camp (name), just like my brother (a.k.a: "everyone else"), and I'm even teaching in a special education classroom with one of my mom's old colleagues for my senior project this coming May (this time, however, I really am going to be the assistant teacher). Before the classroom and camp, I never knew why everyone wanted to be a teacher: all I saw was that I wanted to be different, no matter if I liked the job or not. But now, I see why it is so rewarding to help people who are less fortunate than you, but not necessarily less lucky. They are lucky to have you, but even more so, you are lucky to have them. I'll never forget that first day in that classroom and how it changed my life. And, as Laura proved, those kids will never forget me.