Mariantonieta Anto Chavez

Mariantonieta “Anto” Chavez
International Relations/Photography Associate in Arts Candidate 2018
Miami Dade College

Tengo un Sueño revolved in my mind for an entire academic year. I constantly heard how it changed volunteers’ lives and saw pictures of the children that were part of the program. No wonder this project’s stories surrounded my days – I had one of the founding educators as my English professor. Anyone that listened to Emily talking about this community could tell she honestly cared. Was I curious? Sure. Did I dare to ask more? No. Words piled inside my ears while I conveniently ignored the complexity and depth of each story. By the end of my second term in college, however, I got tired of listening. Emily’s passion combined with the inspiring concept of the educational program made me impatient to live the experience as a volunteer myself. Her support informing us of all the requirements, and taking care of all the details, made me feel at ease as I stepped into an unknown world. All I had to do was prepare for the experience.

The trajectory from the first day I entered the dreamers’ classroom to the last one was a long but pleasant one. The concept that intrigued me for months started to acquire a more concrete shape in my mind. They were no longer a group of children from a picture; I knew their names and their passions. I slowly got invested in their future. The little details of each teenager’s routine were important to me; if they ate well, read a book, slept peacefully, or desired to travel someday. Visiting their houses I witnessed the outcomes of a caring family and the consequences of a dysfunctional one. The courage they chose to approach life, regardless of their hardships, astonished me. Eventually, I transitioned from an outsider to a friend as well. They quit being shy, looked comfortable around me, and asked for help during class without embarrassment. Confidence appeared in their actions, how they shared a laugh with me, and even trusted me with their secrets.

I observed the importance of each brick on this wall full of dreams. It stopped being a foreign project to me and each piece of it grew a meaning in my heart. Their school life impacted them as much as their life at home. Marcela, their English teacher, cared about their academic achievements. Huguette, their counselor, guided them through the unsteady path of their young age. Rita and Leyla, the program coordinators, instilled ethics and values and skillfully navigated through  the countless and obviously difficult duties of supporting 27 youngsters and their families. Both of them protect them and make sure they have everything to grow into healthy and caring adults. In my short stay, I developed a sense of admiration for these women and the youth that they serve.