NSHSS Conrad Scholar/Student Council
Florida Atlantic University
Have you ever dared to dream the impossible dream, to try and reach the unreachable stars?
The song The Impossible Dream from the Broadway play Man of La Mancha sings to my father’s and my dreams. Both our childhood dreams challenge the improbable--mine because it is not yet technically possible, my Dad’s because it was financially out of reach. My dream is to go to Mars in search of knowledge and travel the universe; my Dad’s was to go to college in search of knowledge and then travel the world. My father has had an enormous influence as he inspires me to dream the impossible dream.
To many, our dreams to voyage to far away places appear unfeasible. Born in a rural Italian village without running water, electricity or cars, Papa dreamt of going to university in America. His mother finished first grade before working in the fields; his father, fourth grade before becoming a tailor. Despite many obstacles he bravely pursued his quest. He sailed the Atlantic Ocean to America as one day I will sail the solar winds to outer space. My father struggled to learn English, worked hard, and earned a college scholarship. There he mastered seven languages. He managed to beat a great foe, the financial barrier of his “impossible dream.” His perseverance continued as he went to work, eventually earning a job in international business. Over the years he has visited all the corners of the earth. The best part is the friends he has made in many different countries. My Dad’s dream of traveling the world became a reality.
Family, la famiglia, and the traditions and values of being Italian American first generation, are at the core of my being. Dad is who I turn to for guidance, encouragement, and support. The family meal is sacred in our house and it is our grounding time. As we prepare and eat our great Italian dinners, we laugh, talk, argue, cry... It is within the family that life is given balance and perspective. My life choices are first discuss at length with my father and mother and their input influences my decisions. My Dad always says it is in my blood, it is my genes. I am a dreamer, an explorer, an inventor a scientist, an artist, a teacher and an entrepreneur. Italians have been leaders in all of these areas and I am continuing in their footsteps as I take on the roles of cadet leader, ballet company dancer, soccer team captain, church lector, soccer referee and university student. These choices have been influenced by my father.
I was home-schooled until age fourteen. As a result I spent a lot of time with my parents fully embracing my Italian American culture, traditions, and values. Motivated by my father and my dream of becoming an astronaut, for my first educational institutional experience I jumped 100% into college my high school freshman year. This experimental total college immersion program was challenging and it was different going from being in a classroom with just me to one with 300 university students. I took college courses without having the high school preparatory classes. The pressure is enormous, but like my Dad, I am willing to take a risk. One of the reasons I chose to apply to this experimental high school-college program was my Dad’s stress on the importance of getting a good solid education.
My father always bragged about Italian contributions to society and Italian explorers, like Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus, inventors like Leonardo Da Vinci, and scientists as Galileo Galilei. Our oceans and outer space are the next frontiers. The engineering, technology, and scientific discoveries required to sustain life in the ocean and space are similar and will improve communication, transportation, agriculture and medicine on earth. I want to be a part of those discoveries, bringing ideas and people together to implement solutions to global problems. I became interested in engineering after taking a course titled "Innovative Problem Solving." Looking at other ways to solve problems and doing assignments such as building computerized robots sparked my interest. I am now a junior in Florida Atlantic University's College of Engineering & Computer Science's Innovation Leadership Honors Program with a major in ocean engineering and a minor in history. Florida Atlantic University is focusing its attention on environmentally sound solutions and is doing extensive research in the areas of coastal reconstruction, submersibles, and alternative energy; areas I am exploring.
You never will guess where I spent my spring break - it was not on the beach getting a suntan. I was accepted to a special week long internship at Kennedy Space Center! I worked with NASA engineers to build and launch a weather balloon and was there for the final landing of the shuttle Discovery!
My Dad’s world view of how all of us are connected has had caused me to look at problems differently from my colleagues. He encouraged me to be open to others and to travel. I had the opportunity to go be the US Cadet Ambassador to Japan in 2008, hosted foreign students in 2009 and did a study abroad in Italy in 2010. At the university I am being taught by, working on projects and making friends with people from very diverse backgrounds and countries. I attend symposiums, colloquiums, lectures, exhibits, seminars, plays and demonstrations. I even got to go to a presidential primary debate. How many people do that in their lifetimes? The exposure to different people and ideas is incredible! My Dad always says, “Education is so much more than just courses.”
My faith is an important part of who I am. I have been brought up in the faith and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. My Dad shared stories of being an altar boy and when I visited his village as a young girl I participated in the religious processions that meandered through the narrow streets. Since my confirmation I have been a lector, Diocesan Youth Council Representative, and an active member of our Life Teen Youth Group supporting our church’s anti-poverty programs. Religion and helping those who are less fortunate are part of my Italian American culture and have given me a strong moral structure on which to make my life choices.
It is the stories of my family’s sacrifices and the Italian American traditions and values of importance taking responsibility and being part of a community that has inspired me to service. I work with my school’s disabled students, providing opportunities for them to be successful. For nine years I have served in the Civil Air Patrol, the US Air Force Volunteer Auxiliary where I have organized disaster relief, senior citizen aid, veterans and soldiers support programs, and child mentoring. In addition, my family taught me tolerance of other cultures and religions and I try to practice these ideals. As cadet officer, I make accommodations necessary for respect of religious traditions. For example, I make sure to oblige our Muslim cadets’ prayer times and occasionally schedule activities on days other than Saturdays because Jewish cadets have religious commitments.
My frugal parents grew up with very limited resources and are not big consumers. Our family recycled long before it became the “thing to do.” Dad says in Italy a bottle or newspaper were never thrown away, but used over and over as was everything! My parents have always saved and did not accumulate debt. With the economic downturn, both parents have lost their jobs. My dad’s sense of humor and positive attitude keeps us plugging. My parents instilled in me the value of a dollar and a strong work ethic. I have worked and earned my own money since age five. I am currently working jobs, one as calculus instructor, another as sports referee and a third as engineering intern designing security tags. I use my money responsibly: paying for college, my activities and helping with family obligations. These practices allow us to get through tough financial times together.
My dad gave me the confidence to go out and explore the world around me. From these opportunities, I have acquired skills, gained leadership experience and know that I can do anything if I persevere. I know what it means to be accountable for the decision I make and people entrusted to my care. I have stood up to those who were discriminating and demonstrated that respect for each other is important. I have learned in order to achieve a goal one must make a plan, get others on board, secure necessary resources and then go out and DO IT!!! I learned to not listen to the people who say it is impossible, and to get the complainers involved. I have had unique opportunities to train, lead and mentor. I have seen tragedies and poverty and have learned to appreciate what I have: my family, friends, university and country. None of these life lessons would have be possible without the support and guidance of my father.
Like my Dad, my openness, willingness to share my time and talent, and enthusiasm to try new things, makes everything I attempt an enlightening, rich experience and will be why I will make a singular contribution to society. He showed me have that we are all connected and many of the decisions we make impact others. My life journey and contribution to the world continue to be shaped by the opportunities I undertake, the decisions I make, the places I go and the people I meet which will always be framed the traditions and values of my father.
When I get discouraged, I reflect upon my father’s pursuit of his dream and am inspired and re-energized. My Dad has shown me that impossible dreams can come true, if we only dare to dream. So I know one day I will follow my quest and travel to INFINITY AND BEYOND!