The pencil rapped lightly on my head, a not-so-subtle
reminder from dad that I had the wrong answer to the math problem at hand. Thoroughly annoyed, I scrunched my eyes and
thought hard. Fractions danced behind my closed lids, one of them the golden
ticket that would end the slew of after-dinner math questions.
I was lucky. The inner-city students I tutored many years
later never had the privilege of a pencil tap to the head. In the daily struggle
to make ends meet, academic achievement was a luxury, not a household priority.
We begged their families to encourage school attendance and take an active
interest in their homework. Our pleas often fell on deaf ears.
I was lucky to receive this spectacular education from my
parents, who taught me focus, dedication, and work ethic from an early age. Who
spent their evenings unselfishly teaching me math and who nudged the bar up whenever
I came within reach.
That bar is now mine to set and I will strive to make it
visible for those whom education remains a luxury. I will continue my efforts
to tutor, mentor, and plant the motivational seeds that self-sustain over time.
And above all, I will keep the sharp sting of a No. 2
pencil always present.