I know that it is rare for a 17-year-old to be certain of what they want to do when they grow up. Even at orientation for graduate school, when asked, “why special education?” It all went back to Mustard Seed Communities. It is not a feeling that is easy to explain, but after visiting Blessed Assurance during the summer of 2011, a passion took root inside me that has only since continued to grow.
This was my second trip to Blessed Assurance, and while I had loved my first visit immensely, this time was different. I immediately felt more comfortable jumping right in, and found it quick and seamless to begin forming relationships with the children. One girl in particular seemed to pull at my heart–Camille.
Camille stepped back when the other children ran forward, she shied away with a frown as the others were aching for our attention. I was drawn to her and she was a puzzle that I was determined to solve. I could tell she was warming up to me as we spent more time together. Finally, on the third day, Camille crawled into my lap. I leaned forward so that her body almost touched the ground then quickly pulled her back up for a hug. When I saw the grin spread across her face, nothing else in the world mattered.
It was after this moment that I felt certain of my path. I never wanted to stop having moments like the one I had with Camille–moments where I felt like I’ve made a difference, and where, for just a second, I forget everything else. The ability to see the direct impact on Camille started a drive inside me that has never stopped.
I want to influence the lives of individuals with disabilities. I chose to attend Boston University for its special education program and with each direct classroom experience I became increasingly excited for the work I was about to begin. Finally, two years ago, I stepped into a classroom I would call my own, and taught students who challenged, surprised, amazed, and excited me. There were undoubtedly hard days, but I never lost sight of what brought me to this point, and each breakthrough moment I was lucky enough to experience with a student, my mind went back to that day on the sidewalk, holding Camille’s hand and watching her beam with laughter.
Now as I have embarked on my graduate school journey at Vanderbilt University to get my Master’s in special education, I continue to think about Mustard Seed. I am here because of this organization; it opened my eyes to something that brings me joy, passion, and motivation. I love what I do, and will forever have Mustard Seed to thank.
Nicole is pictured above with Camille from the Blessed Assurance apostolate in Jamaica.