I am from: DREAM Scholars Share Their Challenges and Triumphs

The 2019 DREAM Scholars, eight community college students from Achieving the Dream Network colleges selected to attend the annual DREAM convening to enhance their leadership, critical thinking, and networking skills, introduced themselves to fellow DREAM attendees through “I am from” poems they read at plenary sessions throughout the convening. The original poems described the Scholars’ backgrounds, hopes, values, and aspirations. Often one of the highlights at DREAM, the 2019 Scholars’ poems are presented below.

Ahmat Adam Djouma 
Where I Am From poem

There are no cardinal directions to tell where I am from.
I am from everywhere.
I am from Sudan, Chad, France, the United States, and a little city called Utica, New York.
I am from Mohawk Valley Community College where champions like me attend.
I am from Masalit, English, and braille.
Masalit is my native language.  It is not written or read, especially in braille.
I am making history at this moment when I say, “Talim.”
This translates to “Education” in English.  It is historical because it is the first time a Masalit word has ever been written, read, and recorded in braille.
In this moment, I am from pride.
I am from farm animal smells, rice and spice, unbearable temperatures in the Chad refugee camp.
I am from procrastination, disorganization, an “open mind, open heart, and open eyes.”
I am from war, but I am also from love.  I am from dreaming big and learning that humans can evolve from their failures.
I am from “Education is the key that unlocks the door to success” and the understanding that humans make mistakes.
I once was the little boy that was told he could not receive an education because he was blind.
I am from closed school doors, bullies hitting and running, inaccessibility, and that overwhelming feeling of being lost.
I am from Chad where I had to memorize everything because there was not a way for a blind person to read or write.
I am from United States where now I can read, speak, and write in English.
I am from Mohawk Valley Community College where I participate in campus activities. I am a member of the student leadership academy and the member of Lambda Beta chapter of National Honor Society. I am active in local and state government and interned at the local courthouse.
I am a person who has evolved from life’s lessons, injustice, and inequality.
I am the person who once had no sense of direction, but now I know where I am going and where I want to be.
I am from getting into Law School and helping others with my knowledge.  I am from studying Public Policy.
I am from believing that “One must take actions if they want to see change.”
I am the person who does not need cardinal directions to get me there.
As the cartographer of my own life, I am guided by the fact that no obstacle is too big to overcome.

Cam Do
A Poem by Cam Do 2019 Achieving The Dream DREAM Scholar

I am from a country mostly known for the war
The Vietnam War
I am from the struggle to make ends meet
from rivers that flow unequally
And from battles to build a path out of poverty

I am from a family where both parents did not finish school
because they needed to prioritize their basic needs
But I am also from unyielding dedication
And refusal to surrender

I am from such humble background and limited local growth
That my only resource was Disney Channel
And I can proudly say
Hannah Montana taught me English

I am from the realization that rather than bombs and guns
Education is the most powerful weapon to change my life
I am from relentless struggle
Travelling nearly 9 thousands miles to the States
As an international student
For a brighter future

I am from disadvantaged economic situation
There is no doubt in my mind
The choice to start at Bunker Hill Community College
Was the best decision in my life

I am from a hungry stomach
And the fight to fill my own
I have great appreciation
For my community college acknowledging
as a huge external issue to students
And I am from great honor
That my peers elected me as Student Trustee
To represent their voices on important college-wide matter

I am from an extrovert world
That cannot stop talking
that creates the myth that introverts cannot be leaders
But this woman objects to that stereotype
And believes she has the power to lead people too

I am from Every Voice Coalition
An advocacy group on sexual violence in Massachusetts
I am from a conservative culture
Where women voice are undereppresented
But I dare not to stay silent
I dare to speak up
I dare to talk to legislators
I dare to sign a petition
Along with 90 thousands supporters
To address sexual assault issues
And I dare to take the lead at my own campus
To lay a pathway for others to follow

I am from poverty to advocacy
I am from insignificance to influence
And I am from transformation to leader of the next generation.

Ashley Joe

I am from a land where the sun always shines,
And the horizon never ends.
I am from a land where the clouds touch the mountain tops,
And the rain dances on the muddy floor.
I am from a land that cries at night,
From untold stories of my ancestors.
Stripped of our language,
Forced into colonization.
I am from a land that is beautiful BUT scarred,
Happy BUT weary,
Hot BUT cold,
Forgiving BUT heartbroken.
These unceasing contradictions.
Continue to define me.
Continue to challenge me.
Who am I?
Who am I?
I am a brown skinned,
Black haired,
Reservation girl.
Living in a dichotomous world.
I am the only native in biology class,
Dissecting a frog,
Fighting back my traditional beliefs,
Because Mr. Keely in my 3rd hour says,
“It’s the only way you’ll pass this class.”
I am my mother’s daughter.
I am my auntie’s niece.
I am my grandmother’s granddaughter.
The matriarchy seeping through my veins,
While the patriarchy labels me,
Drug Addict,
I am the missing and murdered indigenous women,
Whose stories go untold or unnoticed,
Standing before you on this stage,
Saying “me too” for the girls who have been,
Sexually assaulted.
I am my ancestors,
Whose blood runs through my veins,
For I am their warrior.
I am a student at Navajo Technical University,
Fighting for indigenous education.
Fighting colonization,
For I AM the exception.
For I AM the resilience.
Like my ancestors say,
T’ahdii Koo Honiidlo,
For that means I AM HERE.
I am proud AND I AM HERE,
I am indigenous AND I AM HERE,
I am a woman AND I AM HERE,
I am educated AND I AM HERE,
I am fearless AND I AM HERE.

Carmelita LaTray

I am from Native America,
I am from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska,
Where the people preserve their language and traditions,
I am from strong, resilient Indigenous leaders and ancestors,
I am from survivors,

I am from my great grandmother, Geneva Ewing,
Who was forced into boarding school and stripped of almost everything she knew,
I am from that very same woman who stayed strong,
Who didn’t let a single person take away her language, culture or traditions,
The same woman who passed down those teachings to the next generation,

I come from a hard-working single mother and grandfather,
Who always made sure the kids were taken care of no matter what,
I was raised by one of the last fluent Hocak speakers,
Herman Christopher Brown Jr, a strong Army Veteran,
I am strongly bonded to my siblings,
I am from my older brother who could still wrestle me to this day, but forever be my protector,
I am from my two caring sisters who have always given me love and support,

I come from the Hocak Language which allows me to use my Native Tongue,
A great gift from Mauna,
I am from the Warrior Clan,
My Indian name is Manape Xunu Wiga, Little Soldier Woman,
I am from the trauma that runs through my ancestors’ blood and into mine,

I am from beating the statistics,
I am from Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids,
Two strong Native American women who are making a difference in Congress,

I am from the Little Priest Tribal College,
Where I am studying my past, while preparing for the future,
I am from dedicated instructors who are preparing their students to succeed in not only their
professional lives, but personal lives as well,
I plan to share the knowledge that college has given me with future generations,
As an educational advocate who is passionate about student success,

I am from 10 years of the right boarding schools,
I have known stereotypes and racism my entire life,
But I’ve also known love and friendships from all around the world,
I am the future because of my past.

Thank you.

Samantha Parrish
Nowhere to Somewhere

I am from “Shut up, Samantha!”
and cold, calloused hands
I am from Daddy’s stone-faced disappointment
and his mocking laughter
I am from shadows cast by smart older sister
and the All-American brother
I am from soup beans and cornbread
and girls can only be wives, mothers, or school teachers
I am from “It’s too hard for you”
and “You’ll never be enough”

I am from tarnished metal of melted brown powder
and the poisoned veins of who I vowed to love
I am from the throbbing ache of brokenness
and the paralyzing silence of his voicemail
I am from loneliness of rehabs and hours of counseling
and a six-month sober marriage
I am from Tom and Kim Parrish
his parents who held us together
I am from Reconciliation Ministry
and hands held high, lifting us up, praising His name

I am from Northeast State Community College
and TRiO Student Support Services who showed me the warrior inside
I am from the five-hour study groups and late-night papers
and the International Honors Society
I am from warm salt waters of the Adriatic Sea in Italy
and the TnCIS Study Abroad program
I am from “help me” and “teach me” from fellow students
and the multiple mentor programs

I am from hours of transfer preparation
and the “Congratulations you are accepted”
I am from hours of training classes
and applications from specific programs
I am from the longing to help those less fortunate than myself
From the broken tooth to the amputation of a limb
I am from the longing to give to those who gave to me
From my patients to those who helped me along my way

I am from hurt and neglect
I am from love and happiness
I am from the highs and lows
and everything in between
I am from the “You can’t”

Raymond Power

I am from city they call Destiny, where one can change their circumstance
if they work hard and follow their dreams.
I am from city streets, where sounds of gunfire and sirens are a normal thing.
Where young boys and girls hang outside until way past the time the street lights
have come on. Where tattoo tears and acting hard and getting high are just ways
of coping from all the generational trauma. 
East Side!
I am from four walls, cement floors, bars, and being labeled just a number. But I
enter those same walls now and show others there is another way and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am from the number 0. Is how I felt only because I wasn’t shown my worth. I
changed that 0 to a hero, a hero in my family’s eyes, to my community, and to the
youth and others that are just like me. A hero to my kids that look at me with a
love in their eyes that makes me feel like I could fly.
0 to HERO
I am from not thinking I deserve anything. A life that was a struggle to get up and
live day to day. From drugs that entered my system, giving me a false sense of
hope, to the gangs that I called my family but were my own worst enemy. But I
turned these struggles to real hope, transformation, awards and showing my
people there is a better way!
I am from family.
A family I built with my wife when we both had none.
A beautiful family, built differently than most but my family.
A wife, 3 sons, a daughter, a brother, my mom and my grandma.
There are 9 of us!
I am from giving back to a community that has given me so much.
A community that has forgiven me for my past life lessons
and pushed me to succeed in all aspects of life.
A support system!
I am from the motto “never stop learning”.
Where you never know it all, and you push to learn more,
to help others, to teach and to speak life
into the ones that need it the most.
I am from higher education!
a community of colleges that saw the best in me
and gave me the confidence I was missing and showed me my worth.
A place that believed in me and gave me my passion, ambitions,
and pushed me to goals and triumphs
beyond what I could have ever imagined.
A place where I am a leader, a Student government President, and some were
that made me able to stand on this stage in front of you today.
Pierce College
I am from Life lessons that shaped me into the person I am today.
Lessons of love, heartache, passion and empathy.
Lessons like don’t judge a book by its cover, because you might miss out on
something very special.
Lessons of believing in second chances and never giving up on the ones that need
you the most. Because I couldn’t imagine where, I would be if someone didn’t
give a second chance. Lessons like life has just begun just keep turning the pages.
I am from making a difference, to leaving a legacy of change, hope, inspiration,
and to show that you can overcome the hardest days and saddest nights. You can
be that light that burns bright inside all of you. You can fly high sore strong and be
the change the world needs, now more than ever. This is a time for action, change
and giving people a voice because we all matter!

Carol Faye Walls

Where I come…
I come from faith, love, strength, “mother wit” and strife.
I come from young parents who raised six children in “ghetto life”.
I come from civil rights marches, picket signs and long welfare lines.
– and a time when black folks could only drink ---from the “colored” water fountain.
I come from concrete sidewalks -- lilies and roses sprouting through the cracks.
I come from times when a ride on the local bus meant sitting in the back.
I come from seeing needles on the ground having been in someone’s veins.
I came from kids “joking” and cussin’ and calling other kids names.

I come from laughter and humility even in bad situations.
I came from racial tension and frustration in all sorts of places.
I come from miracles and prayers that “we shall overcome”.
I come from the smell of collard greens, potato salad and fried chicken – overdone.

I come from strong roots that spread far and wide.
I come from wearing “hand me downs” made with mother’s pride.
I come from whippings, structure and listening to parents’ words
I come from a time when children were to be seen and not to be heard.

I come from dreams deferred -- and saying my thoughts aloud.
I come from dancing to James Brown, singing “I am black, and I am proud”.
I come from a strong work ethic -- persistence through pain.
I come from falling hard, getting back up and falling again.

I come from a full head of hair – now, I stand here bald.
I come from a bout with uterine cancer that once had me stalled.
I come from “failure just ain’t an option – never give up -- never retreat.
I come from understanding nothing happens without moving your feet.

I come from tapestry woven together –sturdy -- and built to last.
I come from embracing my future -- built upon my past.
And -- I come from ancestors whose spirits linger on within me.
I come from those who have given their lives, so I could be free.

Now -- I am in pursuit of my dreams and earning my degree.
I know -- I would not be here without the support of my beloved MC.
I’m ecstatic about my future --- Oh yeah… bursting at the seams!!!!
My goodness, I’m standing here, “Achieving the Dream” -- “Achieving my Dream”.

I'm committed to learning, leading -- giving back on my journey.
I'll keep building my legacy to encourage those that follow me.
I’ll stay loyal to Montgomery College -- even as I graduate.
My message will be ...keep going -- keep moving -- it’s never too late.

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