How I Ended Up Here

It all started with a childhood obsession with Super Nintendo. As I grew to love the game, I wanted to learn everything about my favorite characters and their stories. However, there was a problem: the stories within the game were not in my native Portuguese but in English. Soon I noticed that I was not only missing out on the game intricacies, but also a vast amount of information on the internet that could only be accessed in English. It was the first time that I realized that I needed knowledge to achieve life goals, as well as a passion and commitment to expanding that knowledge.

My lifelong learning journey started then as I became obsessed with the English language and looked for opportunities to learn it. Due to my humble family background, my parents could not afford to place me in a language school, hire a tutor, or buy expensive English books. Because of that, I needed to look for alternative ways to learn English. One day while I was returning from school, I came across a pamphlet containing information about a dance audition. A well-known Brazilian dance company sought teenagers who also had some dance skills, and because a British school was sponsoring the dance company, the selected candidates would also receive full scholarship to study English. Confronted with such serendipity, I realized that this was the opportunity I was waiting for. I quickly learned some basic ballet and practiced dance moves endlessly until the day of the audition. The determination paid off, and soon I started attending English classes as well as professional dance lessons.

Although my primary reason for auditioning was to learn English, I ended up falling in love with dance and became a dancer, which provided me with other valuable experiences and skills as well. I learned the importance of team work, which I was later able to transfer to both the classroom and the workplace. I was also given the opportunity to become involved in community work. The dance company, in partnership with non-profit organizations, provided dance lessons and other educational opportunities for youths in disadvantaged communities. It was during this time that I felt the real impact of education and power to get someone out of poverty, and I knew that if I continued to work hard towards my goal of continuing to study English and complete a college degree, I too could create my own place in the world.

My participation in community projects led to an invitation to represent Brazil in the18th Ship for World Youth Program in 2006, an international youth exchange program established by the Japanese government to foster international friendship and develop the leadership qualities of the participants. I was one of two hundred young leaders from around the world who traveled to Japan to sail on a ship for three months and be exposed to a variety of cultures, faiths, traditions, and practices. In the end, this trip opened up some educational prospects. By this time my English was good enough to apply to schools in the US, and I was selected by Lawrence University to study political science, economics, history and other subjects. I became the first person in my family to receive a university education.

After college, I started working in New York City for a publishing company. I have worked in both in the sales and finance departments of the organization. Although I learned a ton about the corporate world neither of those roles felt like my calling. Now I am learning programming at the Flatiron School and loving it. Programming really fits with me. I enjoy how I am able to use my creativity to build something. I feel as alive as I was when I used my creativity to create dance routines. Also, software development, is a skill that allows one to be creative and build powerful tools that can make an impact in people’s lives worldwide. This alone makes me very happy to be learning programming.

Looking back, everything I achieved so far required knowledge and a great commitment to pursue it. But the process still continues. The pursuit of knowledge carries on and I hope it never stops because it brings me great joy. And personally, I owe a debt of gratitude to SNES games for tacitly nudging me in this direction.

mario

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