“We are the music-makers/And we are the dreamers of dreams”, proclaimed Arthur O’Shaughnessy in “Ode”, a poem which pays homage to all artists. Through our experience and creations, we interact with the world, inspire others, and initiate change. What can I do in my community with my education? As an undergraduate English major, I am aiming to become a college professor; a strong role model, and as O’Shaughnessy puts it: a “mover and shaker”.
I recently viewed a documentary entitled, “Mardi Gras: Made in China” which addressed the issue of the labor and exploitation of young Chinese girls and boys. These adolescents traveled away from their homes at a young age to work in prison-like factories where they would manufacture plastic beads used for Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans. Their arduous labor, worth approximately seven-hundred and fifty dollars per year was sought to provide income for their families. What I learned about these young people is their dreams are never realized. They operate the same machine for 51 weeks out of the year without being allowed to socialize. I was moved by the realistic depiction of these human lives. I feel extremely fortunate to be at Queens College in a setting where I am encouraged to educate myself, and where I have the freedom and opportunity to explore fields of study which are of interest to me.
I teach English at an after-school program in my community. Every day I work with elementary and middle school students by helping them with their homework, and then teaching them a lesson in writing, or poetry. I aim to provide these children with options, new perspectives and approaches to learning, and positive attitudes about
themselves. I have opened them up to poetry, plays, and creative writing. Recently, I assigned the students to read the story of The Ugly Ducking. Following the reading, I worked with them to incorporate their unique impressions of the story into the writing of their own scripts. We are currently working as a group on the production of the play they conceived. This will give the children the experience they need to take flight creatively in their own direction. Throughout the work I do with these children, I emphasize the value of one’s own personality. I encourage them to incorporate their own voices into their creative endeavors, and teach them the importance of approaching all they do with a positive attitude and perception of themselves. I consider myself a strong role model to these students as I present myself as a dedicated teacher, hardworking student, active member in my community, and dynamic individual.
As a drummer for the past 10 years, my direction has always been to emote through the language of music. Encompassed in this notion are hard work, passion, and dedication. By believing in my own character, incorporating my own voice without censorship, and positively presenting myself to the drum set, I have been able to bring a level of humanity into my music and, thus, deepen the experience of my audience. A great inspiration to me has been jazz percussionist, Elvin Jones, who writes:
You always hope that the listener will hear what you are doing. If they hear what you are doing, then they also hear what you feel. If these two things exist ... the insight that occurs when one human being meets another would be realized, and they would come back from the experience more enlightened, a better person, perhaps, or have more tolerance to whatever goes on and exists around them (Downbeat, November 1997).
There is an intimate relationship between musician and listener. This notion bleeds through to other aspects of human relation.
I teach my students the importance of their own voice, and how they can often feel censored because of preconceived expectations placed upon them by outside sources. I teach them how to purely emote in their work because I think that individual growth begins from the recognition of one’s true emotions, and from the authentic experience of another’s. Philosopher Martin Buber called this experience the “I-Thou” moment: “Through the Thou a person becomes I.” In the I-Thou relationship, “human beings are aware of each other as having a unity of being. Human beings do not perceive each other as consisting of specific, isolated qualities, but engage in a dialogue involving each other’s whole being.” In my English studies, I have invested myself in exploring this fascinating idea of human interaction and understanding in literature. In Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse, she executes the idea that unions with one another allows for the establishment of meaning. Likewise, in James Joyce’s “The Dead” the main character, Gabriel is unable to have meaningful and sincere relations with his wife until he is forced to recognize the humanity in her.
As part of my dedication to my Queens College education, I take what I have learned, and apply it towards my teaching. At the after-school program, I wanted to communicate the notion of the “I-Thou” relationship to my students. What I found to be extremely inspirational was the presence of this profound idea in the children’s book, The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. The little prince experiences this realization
that his rose has significance because of how much time and effort he has invested in caring for her. The rose embodies the conception that love arises from investing in other
people. Consequently, my internal experience of education has motivated me to outwardly express these ideas in my relations with my community. As I continue this meaningful engagement with my education as an English major, I hope to inspire others through my work, my example of artistry, passion for my undertakings, and determination. Just as I have developed an empathy and understanding for other musicians by playing in an ensemble, I feel that the act of teaching, and presenting myself as an effective role model in my community can also shape a solid and honest interaction. Queens College has been the foundation for my growth as a high-quality individual. I would be privileged to study at the CUNY Graduate Center while I earn my Masters and PhD with such talented professors who can who assist me in gaining a deeper understanding and interaction with such poets as Shelley, Wordsworth, and Coleridge.
In conjunction with teaching an after-school program, and drumming, I have volunteered in the St. Luke’s Church Music Ministry program. I have volunteered over eight-hundred hours of service as a guitarist and drummer. As part of this program, I am involved in an annual fundraiser for less fortunate families, deaf children, and other various organizations. The group produces a play and performs it throughout the community at places such as St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital, and Ozanam Hall. This is an incredibly rewarding, and enjoyable experience. In my senior year at Flushing High School I proposed an idea for a literary magazine. As editor-in-chief I selected poetry,
prose, and artwork for the magazine, which I discovered had not been published since 1992. Later that year I won an “Excellence in Writing” award. I am currently a recipient of two merit-based awards: the Peter F. Vallone, and Joseph Tauber Scholarships.
J. Hector St. John once wrote, “…individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.” As I advance in my academic career, I plan to use this scholarship to enrich myself with concentration on English Romantic Poetry and Education. I seek to translate my intrinsic experience into my every day life as an active member in my community, and essentially as a professor of English. As a strong role model, I hope to continuously interact with my community in a manner which inspires, and initiates change.