Connecticut Family is dedicated to showing the good and promise that we can expect from upcoming generations by highlighting the leadership and inspiring activities of area young people.
The Young Leaders series recognizes the community builders of tomorrow: – students who see an outstanding need and work to meet it; who mentor and nurture others; who show leadership in inclusion, compassion, and advocacy; who work diligently (and often quietly) to further a cherished cause. Each day, and all around us, young people are motivated and working to better this world: to help, to heal, to share, to acknowledge, to grow.
We’re asking regional educators are asked to nominate young people deserving of recognition. The first three profiles appear in this issue; we look forward to writing many more.
If you know a young person making a difference in our world, please (with parental or guardian permission) send a brief write-up detailing their accomplishments, school, grade and contact information to Managing Editor Faye Parenteau, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neyssa Jean Michel is a senior at New London High School and a participant in Higher Edge, a local college access program. Executive Director Chris Soto says that Neyssa moved from Haiti to the United States in January of this year, “and in that short time, Neyssa not only held onto her goals of attending college, but actively pursued them.”
This young woman simply glows with her joy and excitement of working toward her dreams.
CF: How were you able to come to the United States?
NM: “First of all, I have to thank God for the opportunity to come here because without Him, I don’t know what exactly I would become. My country doesn’t have a lot to offer. It’s a really poor country and very hard for people to go to college. There’s not a lot of opportunity given for scholarship and grant money. It was hard to see my future staying in Haiti.” She smiles brightly. “My grandfather applied for us to come, and it worked.”
CF: What do you like best about living in America?
NM: “Diversity. I was a little scared of not fitting in, not having friends, and not finding myself comfortable, but it turned out to be a really great experience. I get to meet a lot of people from a lot of different countries and cultures and backgrounds. It was fantastic to meet these people and come together to make this wonderful community.”
CF: What are your immediate and long-term goals?
NM: “First, I want to go to a four-year college to study a lot of things. Because you have so many choices, and I don’t even know exactly which one I need to focus on. I just know I want to do great, and study hard so I can help this wonderful community that gave me so much, and give back to them. I also want to help people all around the world to trust themselves, to work hard so they can have a good outcome.”
Shortly after Neyssa’s arrival in New London, she took the SATs, according to Soto. “[It was] quite an accomplishment for a student with no prior experience or exposure to this form of testing, or even the concept of standardized testing,” he says.
Michel adds, “I applied to a lot of colleges and I heard back from six of them, which is great. I want to specialize in public health.”
CF: Why did you choose public health?
NM: “Being Haitian is hard. It is...” Neyssa chokes up a little, then apologizes. “But it’s also wonderful being Haitian because this country is really open to every new thing. In Haiti, some communities don’t have access to health, to medicine, and the normal things we have here. I want to somehow learn it and maybe go back to help them because it’s my country.”
CF: How do you plan to grow your goals?
NM: “I will do a lot of community service because I learned a lot from that, and the library, and the church. It’s really amazing. I want to do a lot of internships and meet with a lot of different people. If I can have the opportunity to go to different countries to get more experience, then I can put them together so I can work harder and give people around me more knowledge of what I’ve learned during college.
CF: Tell us about Higher Edge.
NM: “I love Higher Edge. Applying to college is a bit difficult because if you don’t know what you want to do, it’s really hard to focus on what colleges and what programs you want. Higher Edge put together all these things that I’m passionate about and helped me make this plan for me. I’ve been encouraging many juniors and sophomores in my school to apply to Higher Edge..”
CF: Anything else you’d like to share?
NM: “I just want to add that communication is really important. … Where I come from, it’s different. Here, communication is what makes you close to people, able to form a relationship with them. At Higher Edge, you should not be afraid or ashamed to share what you’re feeling, your sensations, your desires, and your pain with them because they listen and are here to help you.”