Back in 2013, I had the opportunity to visit local schools in Tijuana, Mexico to drop off school supplies and connect with the local children. I remember playing the game, “Would You Rather” with a group of students. My first question was, “Would you rather have a lot of money, or a loving family.” To no surprise, everybody answered, family. Then a little girl named Mala raised her hands and jumped up and down to ask her question next. Mala asked the question that changed my life forever.
“¿Si puedes tener cualquier cosa en el mundo, lo qué sería?”
“If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?”
I didn’t understand. I just nodded and laughed, hoping it was a statement. It wasn’t.
She laughed and restated,
“No señor. ¿ Si puedes tener cualquier cosa en el mundo, lo qué sería?”
“No sir, if you could have anything in the world, what would it be?”
With the help of my translator I understood. (About this time, I regretted sleeping through my Spanish classes in high school). Nonetheless, I looked at her and proudly said,
“Nada, ¿Y tú?”
“Nothing, and you?”
“Quiero ir a la escuela en los Estados Unidos”
"I want to go to school in the United States."
I understood this and it was daunting. I couldn’t make her wish come true; I couldn't take her to America with me. It also made me realize how much I took my education in the US for granted. Immediately I got a hold of my translator and asked him to translate for me. “Mala, let’s promise to improve education wherever we go. I promise.”
She looked at me, smiled, and said:
The rest is history.