Growing up in Miami has been an experience for me. You never realize that where you live can have such a great impact on your life. Living in Miami has taught me some things — through struggles and hardships, to moments of rejoicing and opportunities, it has taught me that with endurance and faith I can achieve anything.

Living in Miami has made me versatile. My mother was a single parent raising my sister and me; sometimes we struggled and fell on hard times. We moved several times, so I got exposed to different areas of Miami such as Opa-locka, Carol City, North Miami, Miami Lakes, Hollywood and Pembroke Pines. I went to schools that were predominantly African American, Hispanic and other cultures, and I met students from a mix of these. This experience not only helped me to learn and understand other cultures, but I gained a mixed diversity of friends from various backgrounds.

I have participated in several activities and programs that were located in various parts of Miami. My mother believed in exposing us to different things. I participated in the Lamplighters, which is sponsored by the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (Sigma Alpha Chapter, Miami), a program for minority young men ages 12-18, “Focused on Helping Shape & Develop Tomorrow’s Future Leaders.”

I participated in the Manhood Youth Development Camp and Educational Institute, a community-based, non-profit organization that provides personal development education, counseling, and mentoring services to youth and families. Their mission is to increase the young male’s potential of leading a productive, responsible, and self-disciplined life crossing into manhood. Through this organization, I had the privilege to go to New Orleans to help victims that experienced devastation due to Hurricane Katrina.

Other programs I participated in were Teen Upward Bound; its mission is “to build strong families, youth and teens through education and faith.” I participated in the North Miami Beach Teen Summit, volunteered at Alonzo Mourning’s Overtown Youth Center, and I am currently on my last year of a three-year internship with Teen Miami. Teen Miami is three-year research and collections initiative on the history of teen life and culture in Miami-Dade County.

My mother also encouraged us to participate in school activities. I joined the band, chorus and the drama club. Through the Flanagan Senior High School drama club, I had the privilege to go to New York and attend workshops, as well as see Broadway shows. I also got the opportunity to go to Statesboro and Savannah, Georgia, to learn about the history of my grandfather and the history of both states.

My experiences living in Miami have been inspiring, informative, interesting, with some low and high moments. Through my experiences in Miami, I have learned to take hardships and struggles, my moments of rejoicing as my learning grew, and my opportunities as a blessing, and to live my life to the fullest.