Kevin Zevallos '16
High School of Telecommunication Arts, Brooklyn, NY
I live alone — I always have since elementary school. I wasn't privileged with having my parents there for me. I didn't grow up with my father; he left when I was four. My mom worked from morning to night, so I spent no time with her. While I grew to appreciate her sacrifices, it strained our relationship. My sister Paola, however, was there for me.
Paola picked me up every day from elementary school. Walking home was the best time of my day; the time I got to connect with a person and actually tell them what I drew in school or the new song I learned to play on my recorder. She was the one who fed me, read me bedtime stories and tucked me into bed. I grew to love her like a mother. In time, Paola left me too.
Having to tend to her newborn child, LaMya, my sister could no longer devote her attention to me. Since I was only in second grade when Paola had LaMya, I did not comprehend my sister’s actions. I felt abandoned, and I longed to hear someone say I’m proud of you. I used that as a driving force to excel in elementary school.
Before my niece was born I wasn’t the brightest kid; I would get C’s and B’s. Diligent studying, however, paid off. In the fifth grade, Kings County sent me a letter about the “Citation of Honor.” I was one out of two kids in my school to receive this award. My mother and sister told me si tu quieres, puedes; if you want it, you can achieve it. Like the engraving on a statue, those words stuck with me forever. I felt empowered knowing my mother and sister had faith in me. In high school, when my mother told me yo quiero que tengas un mejor vida que la mia; I want you to have a better life than mine, I finally accepted that they had other responsibilities. I don’t remember the last time anyone asked me how my day was, but I admire my family's sacrifices for their children to have a better life.
Now I pick up my niece from school and listen to her day as my sister did for me. Everything I learned from my family, I pass on to LaMya. My family’s values of sacrifice and self-determination, values embodied in my persona, I echo on to her. One day, if she ever feels lonely, she’ll know who to come to.
Work drains so much vitality from the people I care about. I know they must work so that one day I will go to a great college, have a good career, and be successful. I will not let my family’s economic situation deter me from my future. I used to be selfish and stubborn; I longed for their attention to hear that they are proud me when in reality they always were. I now understand and don’t feel so alone anymore.