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I’ve had a lot of moments in my life where I was faced with a problem, presented with a new idea, or put in a foreign situation and every time I had to be courageous and face the problem head on. I feel obliged to reveal the roots of my courage because after all I wasn’t born with the courage I have today.

Reflecting back onto where my origins of courage came from I can trace them back as far as my Great Great Grandma when she made the courageous decision to move her family from Norway to America. Or perhaps it was my Father’s courage to move from Florida to a small town in North Dakota, to be the first person in his family to get a college degree. I might even be inspired by my little brother’s aspiration to become successful in school, to become a lawyer by overcoming his challenges with ADHD, and his 2nd grade teacher dismissing him as a “Thug” because of his energetic behavior. It is a challenge to pinpoint the exact moment of how I developed my ability to be courageous  because everybody in my family has their very own story of a moment in time where they were courageous.  However, this story may be the moment.

It was the early winter of 7th grade, a couple weeks before the first semester was going to end. I attended Northeast Middle School. Northeast was a pretty diverse school on paper, 40% Caucasian, 30% Black and 20% Hispanic (the last 10% was split between Native, Hmong, and Pacific Islander) but in school the population was pretty clear cut. The core classes: Science, Math, English, History were divided by 4 teams  in this “mixed grade”.  There were your advanced learner’s at the top of the class with all A’s, with a few B students, and then there was “6th,7th,8th” your “below average” and “average” learners. The system clearly divided the white students from black students.  Predominantly African American classes were on the far left, then there was the dean’s office in the middle, and finally the predominantly white classes were on the right. My science teacher even informed the principal of these arrangements but to my knowledge nothing changed.

You might ask where I landed in this system. Well I landed right in the middle, torn between my Black friends who thought I was a nerd for being on the mixed team. And to my mixed team friends (mostly white) I was a low achiever since I hung out with my African American friends. Subsequently, being a part of both sides landed me in a lot of “black vs white” situations. My most memorable took place in my media arts class, the only other class besides Phys Ed., and an elective, that wasn’t a part of the mixed team system. This left my media arts class the most diverse. One day, a white boy called my black friend’s mom some names that aren’t appropriate in any situation and I called him out on it. That wasn’t the part where I showed courage. It was when I came to conferences and defended myself from the teacher after he accused me of being the aggressor in the situation. My teacher was dumbfounded when I explained that “it clearly states in the handbook that you must stand up for a person if they’re being bullied or ask a teacher for help… don’t be a bystander. I tried to ask for your help but you ignored me out of frustration with the class.” I even showed courage later when I showed kindness to the boy after he called me racial slurs.

For me, courage isn’t just being manly and puffing your chest out, It’s showing love and compassion for those who need it the most. Therefore, I was courageous for bridging groups, standing up for someone, and showing compassion to someone who mistreated me.

-Shalom

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