Are we a product of our environment or is it the other way around? Author W. Clement Stone
believes people are a product of their environment and should choose the environment that will best develop them toward their objective. I am living proof that people can break away from the environment they were born into and find a new one that allows them to succeed.
Born in a single-family Haitian household, I promised myself that I would be everything that my mother could not accomplish. My mother became pregnant with my brother at the age of 16 and had me at 18. Becoming a mother at such a young age — in a society that looks down upon single motherhood — forced her to sacrifice her youth to educate and care for us. She traded her books for bottles of Similac formula. She could no longer make the mistakes teenagers do because she had two children who would pay the consequences.
She was a caring, affectionate, attentive, nurturing, and strict mother. Neither of us choose the environment we were born in, but we worked twice as hard to break the cycle. Before she passed, she used to tell me in our native Haitian Creole language, “Daughter, please do not commit the same mistake I did. I did not finish high school but I’m offering you a chance to do so. Make education a priority.”
I promised myself that I would not get pregnant before I have a degree. (Or, I should say, my mom made me promise not to.) She always wanted me to go further than she ever could, and I wanted to make her sacrifice count. I wanted to show my gratitude to my mother by making her proud of my accomplishments.
From an early age, I have always worked twice as hard as everyone else because I have a lot of dreams. My family moved from Haiti to the United States and although it was hard for me when I had to start all over again, I still did not let that stop me. After immigrating to a new country, culture, and society, I was determined more than ever to break away from my environment.
When we first arrived, my stepdad enrolled me in ESOL classes at Roxbury Community College so I could learn English, but I wanted to learn more than how to speak the language. When the opportunity was offered to me to pursue a degree in higher education, it was a sign that I could be what my mom always wanted me to be — an accomplished and educated young woman.
Soon after completing my ESOL classes, I enrolled at RCC to major in early childhood education. I chose to become a teacher because prior to coming to the U.S., I was an assistant preschool teacher in Haiti. Teaching and shaping young minds has been my passion. I used to help my mom babysit family members’ children, and that is how I have grown to love kids.
I thought that teaching would no longer be possible, but here I am breaking away from my environment by getting an associate degree as an early childhood educator, and working as a teacher again.
One of the reasons why I love being a teacher is because I can help children become more than what society and their environment may predict them to be. Just because my mom got pregnant at 16 and did not finish her studies, does not mean I was bound to do the same. My mom helped me to rise above her failures and shortcomings. She showed me that I could be everything I wanted to be no matter my background. I want to help young children understand that they can achieve everything they desire, and their environment doesn’t have to determine their future.
It’s up to us as individuals to choose whether we will let our circumstances define our life. My mom understood that she couldn’t fully break away from where she came from, but she fought hard to make sure that I knew that I have the power to do so.
So, I made education a priority in my life. Though my mother did not live to see me graduate from RCC, and further my education, I still carry every valuable life lesson she has taught me and has made them a foundation to build upon my successes.
Jessika Supreme is a recent graduate of Roxbury Community College. She will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at UMass Boston in the fall.