One Step Closer

Isaac R., Class of 2023

The first time my parents flew down to Haiti, they were met with absolute devastation on the way to my orphanage. The surrounding buildings in Port-au-Prince were riddled with bullet holes from murders and the abduction of Jacques Roche, a famous journalist, reporter, and Haitian television show host. Merely 30 minutes prior to my parents holding me in their arms for the first time, they drove by men with hatchets and machetes surrounding one of the local stadiums. Those men waited outside of the “Play for Peace” soccer match—an event meant to steer the younger generation, my generation, away from gang violence. Once the match was over, the men beheaded six players and injured fifty spectators in the street. 

Growing up, I never shared much of my past. I was already so different from everyone around me, sharing that wouldn’t help me relate to anyone. For context, I was adopted at 13 months old from a country with an 85 percent black population and brought to Bangor, Maine, a town where I was one of very few black people. I was adopted during the Haitian presidential election of 2005, one of the country’s many states of turmoil. I was homeschooled at first, my parents didn’t want anyone feeding me negative ideas about the color of my skin or my adoption status. For example, my mom used to babysit the neighbor’s child, and, when she wasn’t watching, the kid would tell me that being adopted meant I’m only there because nobody else wanted me.

Despite the neighbor’s boy’s efforts, overall, I felt very welcomed by the community. My mother was pretty well known around the area, outside of being a white mother with a black child. I truly realized how loved I was when I was seven years old. My father and I put up a lemonade stand in the middle of downtown, and before we even finished setting up it began to downpour. I refused to go home; so my mom made a FaceBook post and within 30 minutes there was a line down the street. People from everywhere brought me $100 and $50 bills for $2 lemonade. I made $1,300 dollars that day selling lemonade in the rain. 

Being homeschooled until the 7th grade, I didn’t learn everything at the same pace or in the same way as my peers. While they sat in a classroom all week, I would walk rocky coasts to look through seaweed for crabs and snails, take tours of historical museums and local aquariums, or go up and build a cabin by hand on my father’s land in northern Maine. Despite all the adventures my parents took me on, I was drawn toward the consistency and structure of numbers, and how perfectly they fit together with endlessly unique outcomes. 

When I first got a calculator, for example, I would sit in a chair and type in different combinations for hours on end. My mother never understood where my love for math came from, as she had no interest in it herself. I’d like to think that the state of pure mayhem and havoc I was born into had some effect on my falling in love with the attentiveness of math. 

Fast forward seven years, and I’m now a senior at Bangor High School. Regardless of whether or not the maelstrom that was Haiti had any effect, my passion for math hasn’t faded the slightest bit. I’m hoping to pursue a degree in either engineering, computer science, or anesthesiology. I’ve planned to build a future for myself in mathematics since I was just 11 years old. I’m so grateful to everyone in my community, my teachers, and my parents for helping shape me into the person I am today, and the person I will become. I’m finishing my time here in Bangor, and soon I’ll be one step closer to opening my next chapter.