Tell us about a person who has affected your life in a significant way.
I graduated in 2000 from Rockway Middle School, at the time a “C+” crowded public school struggling to improve its programs; to the surprise of some, I did so having had the honor of being taught by several excellent teachers. They may not have been the most eloquent, or even the most knowledgeable in their field, but over the course of three years, two of them blessed me with awareness and empowered me with lessons I am not likely to forget. One of them, Mrs. Mozzarella, a somewhat elderly American woman, handled history classes full of frequently rowdy Miami children with not only poise and kindness, but also the ever-growing desire to further our moral and intellectual development. When I first met her, I was a recent immigrant an overwhelmed, confused child really and she undertook both the practical expansion of my vocabulary and knowledge, and the more complex encouragement of an impressionable and striving mind.Immersed in stories about John Brown, videos on Ganeesh, reports of the latest earthquake in Turkey, I easily swallowed the information she gave me, for she delivered it with care; an amalgam of cultures myself, I marveled at the universality of feeling, of expression, of life in her lessons. The treasures she instilled in me are both beautiful and powerful: tolerance, awareness, hope.She taught my fellow students and me – and I have yet to understand how – to find within ourselves the desire and motivation to express our goals and most importantly, to have no fear in doing so. My puerile hand chose to write, and, even when she faced 8 x 11 inches of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and rambling sentences, she was the first to express the belief that I could develop into a writer. And in fact, there is now little that I enjoy as much as written expression, whether it be through poetry, class assignments, or a short story I’ve been working on for almost two years. I’ve thanked her on numerous occasions for believing in the young, unsure me, for joking that a Nobel Prize is attainable, for showing me the power hidden in hope, and the effectiveness of compassion, forgiveness, and honesty in touching other human beings.She pushed us all to find a life and follow it, any life, every life, any dream, to question as we saw fit, to never forget that our potential was limitless, and that we have the power to strive for the unattainable. She pushed me to realize that existence should not disintegrate to complete monotony, and that an awareness of the outside world, its events, joys, and calamities, is essential. I loved learning in a classroom where even the walls were beacons of information and color, and now I enjoy learning about everyone else, learning about myself.