“Hey, Miguel!” called out Joey with a broad smile in his direction. “I got some good news for you!”
Miguel walked up closer where he could see Joey beaming at him like a proud father. He held up his hand and in it was an official looking letter. Joey was practically jumping up and down with glee. He thrust the letter into Miguel’s hand. Trying not to let his hand tremble, Miguel lifted the letter and his eyes fell upon the logo:
Miguel read the letter in silence while Joey rocked with glee up and down on his heels.
“It’s a full ride scholarship to study graphic arts, Miguel!” he said, pounding him on the back. “I sent them some of your stuff and a letter and the graphic arts director called me a week ago. After I told him about you and your brother, and how hard you have both worked and turned your lives around, they wanted to give you a full scholarship! Isn’t that cool, mijo?!”
Miguel didn’t know what to say. Nothing could have prepared him for this enormous gift. He fought back the tears but did allow Joey to hug him and pound him on the back.
“Let’s get you something to eat and then we can discuss it if you want.” Joey practically skipped away muttering out loud to himself over and over “Miguel is going to The Art Institute! Holy Mackerel!!”
Miguel stood before the gleaming glass building both excited and terrified. It was his first day of class at the prestigious college with a brand new backpack and laptop that had been donated to him when news had reached the supporters of RYTMO that one of their own had earned a full-ride scholarship to The Art Institute based purely upon the calligraphy and graphics he had created both on computer and by hand. He tried to look calm and casual but inside he was trembling with mingled terror and joy.
“Are you just going to stare at it or ya going to come in?” said a cheerful voice behind him. He turned around and found a pair of bright blue eyes staring back at him and a bemused smile. “I’m Jessica!” said the pretty blond, sticking out her hand to shake his. “You must be new here!”
“Uh…yes, I am,” said Miguel, shaking her hand briefly. Her smile widened and Jessica hooked her arm through his.
“C’mon!” she said, propelling him into the building. “I don’t have my first class for another hour. I’ll show you around!"
For the next hour Jessica gave Miguel the grand tour of The Art Institute, showing him the registrar’s office, classrooms for the culinary institute, fashion design, and last of all, the media arts (Miguel’s career choice). Last of all she took him to the cafeteria (located next to the culinary institute’s kitchens). Incredible smells were emanating throughout the room and Miguel’s stomach grumbled so loudly it made Jessica giggle.
“Let’s get you something to eat or your stomach will be interrupting your instructor’s first class!” she said. She shoved a tray into his hand and led him to the food counter. “Don’t eat anything that has the name Debbie next to it!” she hissed, nodding at a rather disgusting looking side dish made up of what he didn’t know what! “She likes to experiment with really weird stuff. I can’t believe she hasn’t gotten kicked out of the school for food poisoning yet!”
Jessica chattered on happily while piling more food on his plate than Miguel would ever be able to eat. It all looked and smelled incredible and his stomach rumbled loudly again. They took their trays to a table and while he ate, Jessica plied him with questions he couldn’t answer because his mouth was too full.
“Hey, Jess!” a voice called out. Jessica and Miguel looked around to see a red-headed girl come towards them with a big smile.
“Are you new?” Beth asked, sticking out her hand to shake his. Miguel nodded his mouth too full to answer.
“I was just showing him around but I have to get to my next class.” Jessica said, standing up. “Since you’re on break – could you help Miguel find his first class? You guys are both in media arts.”
“Coooooooooooool!” responded Beth, giving Miguel a huge dimpled smile. “If you’re done eating, get your gear and come with me!”
Miguel was reluctant to leave all the great smelling food but he managed to tuck an apple and muffin into his coat pocket before shouldering his backpack and laptop. He followed Beth down the hall and stepped into a classroom filled with students hunched over their laptops, talking animatedly and admiring each other’s work before the instructor walked in.
Beth showed Miguel to an empty seat at a table, helped him log into his new account on the Institute’s website and got him set up for his first class before returning to her own seat.
The instructor entered the classroom with his own laptop. Once he got online, he motioned for attention and waited while the students quieted.
“Good day, class!” said Mr. Bledsoe, smiling at all of them. “Before we begin, let’s all welcome our newest student, Miguel! “
“Hey Miguel!” the class chorused. Some waved others gave him a “thumbs up”.
Not sure what he should do, Miguel nodded in acknowledgement and waved back, smiling shyly. The formalities having been dispensed with, the class began and Miguel, feeling welcomed as never before by a bunch of strangers, felt a warm feeling come over him and an emotion that had come late to him in life: hope.
His life lay before him and it was filled with hope and promise…and it had all started in a little house in Anaheim that was known as RYTMO where he had been given a second chance and loved just for himself.
He would make good on their investment of trust and he would succeed and excel in his chosen field. And perhaps in the near future, he could go back to RYTMO and help some of the new kids there know that there was a different kind of world out there than the ugly, dark and hopeless one they were used to. A world where anything was possible…
Miguel is a young, gifted teenaged boy who lives with his brother, Rene and his other family members in a one-bedroom apartment in a bad part of town where gangs are prevalent. He and Rene both participate in a ministry called RYTMO which is a music-based outreach to youth to give them skills, a safe place to hang out, positive reinforcement and unconditional love and acceptance. Miguel is a very gifted graphic artist and because of his work in creating a logo for the organization, I thought this story might plant a seed in his mind and his heart to aim for higher things in life. Here is Miguel in his own words:
"I have always had my mind on success with getting a career so that I may support them. As you know, I am interested in design and art. When I was young I was athat drew realistic and symbolic art, mostly political of life in my city, through my own eyes. Now a days, I do graphic work of all kinds. I hope my talents can land me a career someday."