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Rice, Beans, and Mango

By Luis Ortiz, Kaimuki High School

Luis was a student speaker at this year’s Summer Institute in Hawaii. Below is his speech as prepared. You can also watch Luis give his speech!

Rice, beans, and mango, that is how I would describe my AVID journey so far. My experience, much like this dish, could be described as a “happy accident’’ because although you have three very different foods, they all seem to come together as if they were made to do so. About a year ago I came to this island with many doubts and many questions. Would I fit in? Would people accept me even though I’m different? For me being Latino in Hawai’i was like being a stranger in a strange land, at first. Surprisingly everything I worried about never actually happened, because I was well liked, made friends, and excelled in all my classes. I honestly felt like I could accomplish anything better than anyone! I was a prime example of a narcissist and seriously enjoyed every second of being one, until the start of my sophomore year.

Rice, a cereal grain, is the most consumed staple food in the world. In order to cook rice, you can either boil it or steam it to a point where it changes and becomes edible. I remember my first day of AVID like it was yesterday, and I specifically remember entering the classroom and thinking, ‘‘what am I doing here?’’ That question continued to plague my mind as I learned more and more about this program that was built on helping disadvantaged kids get into college. I was extremely close to transferring out of AVID until playtime ended and the hard work began. The water had started to boil, and I was forced to change. I stuck through it and haven’t regretted it ever since. I was able to adapt and grow thanks to AVID.

Beans are large plant seeds used for human and animal consumption. In order to prepare beans they must be kept under-pressure for a certain amount of time. In the first few days of AVID, I had never been more out of my comfort zone in my entire life! The pressure was intense. I had to always carry a binder, take notes in every class, prepare for tutorials, and be social with people I didn’t really care for. I was so used to being handed work or listening to a lecture, but AVID completely took me out of my shell and forced me to either grow or fail. At first it was brutal to undertake this type of discipline, but it actually forced me to have more self-discipline and to not be ashamed of relying on my “AVID family.” I was lucky to have peers and teachers who cared enough to not only make me a better student, but to push me away from my narcissism and help me blossom as a better, more humble man. The skills and strategies I learned in AVID helped me earn a 3.9 GPA. Without my AVID Family I wouldn’t have accomplished it as easily or as fashionably.

Mangos, many cultures in the world eat mangos and have their own traditions about this “mystic-fruit.’’ I learned from a close friend of mine that in the Philippines, the mango seed is symbolically the heart and goodness that can be found inside every person. Before AVID, I used to think what made a person great was how much he or she could bring to the table, but I never really bothered to think about what really makes a person special. Now I realize that what makes a person great lies at the very core of that person and the outside is just a bonus.

AVID helped me achieve good grades, improve my attitude, and helped me forge friendships that will hopefully stay with me long after my high school years. Like I said before, to me this AVID journey is just a bowl of rice, beans, and mango.


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