Anahi has lived in this country for less than two years. She has spoken English for less than two years. Just 12 hours earlier, she helped lead HackSchool's competition team in an incredibly successful performance in The Mind Trust's School Design Competition. Then, she stood overlooking the South Lawn of the White House in Washington DC.
Anahi moved to America for a better education and a better future. This is how she'll make it.
Thanks to our amazing friend Andrew, Senior Adviser of Making in the Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy, two of HackSchool's student leaders know what it feels like to stand in the most powerful place on earth.
We talked science and technology policy. Edgar and Anahi sought advice--from the source--about how to work their way to the top. They asked him how to live a good life. We talked about future collaborations, the history of the place we were in, and what keeps a White House senior staffer up at night. We even ran into an astronaut.
These are the things we all know make a difference for students' futures. Connections, advice, experiencing true leadership. These things create opportunity. But as adults, we often forget what really makes an impact on young minds. The smell of a White House library. The intensity of the Secret Service's presence. The firm and inviting greeting, "welcome to the White House," as it echoes off the stone tiles. The chill you get, taking pictures on a smartphone in the same spot where slaveholders once stood.
This is the visceral stuff of childhood. It leaves a lasting impression and shapes the way we imagine our futures.
To feel the power of such a place, and to know that you can stand with one of our country's senior leaders without wilting, without being intimidated into silence, and to confidently seek perspective and advice. To know from experience--beyond a shadow of a doubt--that as an adolescent, you can thrive in that moment. That is personal empowerment, and that is something most of us adults never had the privilege to know.
Edgar's education has been marked by a string of underfunded schools in high-poverty neighborhoods. He spent an entire year jumping from hotel to hotel. And yet he is one of the top performing students in his school, holds numerous leadership positions, and is an incredibly kind and empathetic person.
He spent over 100 hours preparing for our Indianapolis and Washington DC trip, and took full advantage of every opportunity that day.
Later that night on the long, surreal flight back to Denver, Edgar wrote, "without a doubt, the best experience that I have had so far in my life."
This is how young people make their American dream.