This year, I have 25 students. Many of them attend early morning Seminary against great odds. They travel through unsafe neighborhoods in the dark early mornings and many of their families do not always have dependable, if any, transportation. Last year, some of them walked** and some used public transportation. This year, no one is walking and public transportation has only been utilized a few times.
In spite of obstacles, they make great sacrifices to attend early morning Seminary. The majority of them arrive on time and ready to participate every day. They love the gospel and I love them!
After Seminary, my students depart for 10 different high schools (9 public, 1 private), 1 is home schooled, and 1 has already graduated and will be attending BYU-I in January. Of the 9 public schools they attend, 4 are some of the toughest school environments in our county.
Two thirds of my students are the first generation in their families to be educated in the US and to learn the gospel in English. They all speak, read, write, and memorize in English. In addition to English, 4 of them speak Creole (they are from Haiti) and 19 speak Spanish. Only my daughter and 1 other student have English as their first language.
As I marvel at the strength of these students, I am humbled to be their teacher every day. They are beautiful reminders that Jesus Christ is our common bond and that we are all more alike than we are different when we understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father's plan.
Tomorrow starts week 6 and I feel so much responsibility to nurture and teach these amazing students!
I know Seminary saves lives now and eternally. (read below)
**Last year, as I arrived at the building at 5:40 to teach each morning, one of my students would be sitting on the ground near the entrance door waiting for me. When I would say things like, "Wow, you are early" or "You got an early start" etc. He would respond with things like, "Yes, my ride dropped me off early" etc. It was not long before I realized that he was waking up at 4:30 and WALKING*** to Seminary. He did not live too far away, but the area he had to walk through was not any place to be alone on an early dark morning, let alone a bright sunny day. He had to go through an industrial warehouse section and under the Interstate over pass before he got to an area that was "safe" and close to the chapel. I know angels protected him on his way to Seminary.
Shortly after this discovery, a family in our Ward invited this young man, who is the the only LDS member in his family, to live with them so he could get to Seminary safely and on time. He ended up living with this family until the school year was over. They were instrumental in helping him pass High School, obtain a drivers license, and prepare for a full-time mission. In December, he leaves for a full time mission to Brazil.
He graduated from Seminary, earned the Master Scriptorian and Superior Attendance awards and has continued to be a faithful and dedicated student of the gospel.
Seminary and the loving arms of his ward family saved this young man's life. I am grateful for the view the Lord has given me at this season of his progress.
***Often, I have people offer bikes for some of the youth in our Ward or ask why they don't ride bikes instead of walking. The simple answer is, even if finances would allow for some of these kids to have a bike, it would be stolen or vandalized the moment it was out of their sight-in spite of a lock. This isn't true in any case, but it is a reality for most of them.