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    Posted July 31, 2015 by
    Lutz, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    First Person: Your essays

    Chasing my American Dream

    My story begins in the city of Saint Petersburg, Russia.  There I was, sitting in a public school classroom filled with naive, cherub-faced, third graders - some seeking to learn and others awaiting the school bell.  After escaping the walls of the school, I would head with my grandmother, where we would patiently wait for my mother.  My mother would come home late in the evening after an exhausting long day at work and help me with all of my assigned homework.

    Life was tough for our family, for my “father” had left when I was just an infant. Therefore, my mother had to provide financially for our three-person household, sacrificing certain luxuries and accessories that many of us take for granted today, I quickly grew accustomed to this lifestyle, for it looked as if I was going to live by it for the rest of my life.

    But a new chapter in my life was on the next page, and I did not even know it.

    My mother was always concerned about me, and, like any mom, she wanted the best for her son. Unfortunately, at that time she could not provide the tools I needed to excel in education or other curricular activities due to limited resources.  But my mother never gave up trying to provide the best for me, her only child.  Eventually, she found about RenProject.org a charity that offered poor, but bright kids a chance at the American Dream, beginning with a free education. The stakes to get in were high, so my mom provided a cover story so I would not worry, nor be let down if it didn't turn out well for us.  After I took some tests we sat in the hallway waiting, my mother was called into the office.  I will never forget her shining smile after she walked out; I guess at the time I thought that she was very happy that I was smart 9 year old who did well on a test. It was only when we got home that my mother explained to me the gravity of the opportunity that was unfolding in front of me.

    After reality set in, we were still faced with a difficult decision. Not every mother would send her only son away at the age of nine.  It was a terrifying decision, but she knew she had to do this in the hopes of a better future than Russia, or her meager means, could ever provide. So in the summer of 2007, I, alongside a handful of lucky “comrades”, dove head first into American culture and tradition. 

    We submerged ourselves, more accurately; we drowned in the new life style we have never experienced before. The biggest obstacle ahead of me was the language barrier, keeping in mind that I did not know a word of English prior to my arrival to the states.  I quickly attempted any of the things that I did not have back at home, I partook in school sports, learned how to play the violin, took place on center stage under the bright lights of theater production, and on top of that continued to focus on my main objective  - academics. I returned back home only in the summer to catch up with family, always seeing tears in my mothers eyes once I returned because I'd grown up so much, and tears for the countless times I leave because it’s hard to let me go once again.

    We never regret the choice she made, for both of us are very grateful for the charitable work that has been done to keep me in the States, ranging from housing and food to, academic scholarships and many life lessons. 

    We have finished eight long years now, next year will mark half of my life spent studying in the states, away from my family, and through this unique journey the other Russian boys and I have had an unwavering leader who has guided us through the ups and downs of life. Eric Wilson has not only taken the role of my father but has been pulling a tremendous weight for three other young men toward one common goal, an education and a better future for us. He has done everything from cook countless meals to drive endless hours. He has begged for support from others to help make our dreams possible. Sometimes he was successful (school, dentist, orthodontist) and other times folks broke their promises. He always kept the dream alive even if it meant he had to once again make the sacrifice. He has taught me that my word is my honor, and my dreams are there for the making so long as I work hard.

    Equally important as Mr. Wilson has been Academy at the Lakes. Academy at the Lakes has been a school that has supported us since the day we arrived. The families take us in like one of their own, the lady teachers often fill the role of mom both the loving, hugging mom and the tough “don’t mess with me” mommas. The coaches have nurtured the toughnesses we’ll need for the world. At all times, no matter what, I’ve always felt like Academy had my back, our backs.

    Now begins the ninth year of my American story; I am beginning my senior year at Academy at the Lakes, my last year of high school. I am walking a fine line between excitement and fear. I know that Mr. Wilson doesn’t have the means to pay for my college, so it is up to me to work hard to get as much scholarship money as possible. The two boys before me have both done well, but I am scared. I often lose sleep at night wondering what will happen if I fail? This is something that my American friends don’t always understand. In a short ten months, my biggest dream could fade. Just like life, there are no guarantees in my story what the next chapter will bring, I only hope my hard work, and the sacrifice made by my mom, Mr. Wilson, and the many supporters pays off so that someday I can return the favor and change many lives.
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