LEAP for Education Testimonial
Speech Delivered by Kelly Santana King (Northeastern 2017, Mechanical Engineering, 4/4/17
My name is Kelly King and in May, I will be graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I am not much of a public speaker. The first time I had to give a speech I was in 8th grade and didn’t speak a word of English. My math teacher invited me to join the national Honor society, with the catch that I had to give a speech. I wrote the speech in Spanish, my teacher helped translate it to English and on the day of the ceremony, I read from the paper word for word without the slightest idea of what I was actually saying. However, this year I’ve had plenty of practice with public speaking in my coop at Hasbro and my Capstone presentations. And of course, LEAP had to weigh in with one last challenge. So this speech is sort of my graduation from a year-long, informal class in public speaking.
I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, my family moved to the U.S. in 2007 when I was 13 years old going into 8th (so that’s how fresh of the boat I was when I gave that first speech). Things here weren’t as easy as they were back home. I had to work hard to get the grades that I used to get effortlessly. But, in my freshman year of high school, I thought I had my life figured out. I didn’t want to go to college; I wanted to complete a certification program to become a chef.
So, you might be wondering how I went from wanting to become a chef to pursuing a career in Mechanical Engineering. Well, when I moved here, math was my only constant. I didn’t need anyone to translate numbers for me. I remember taking honors geometry while still struggling to form complete sentences in ESL class. So, when I started to consider college, I knew that my career path would revolve around math, but I also wanted to have something physical to show for my work and that’s is how I decided to major in Mechanical Engineering.
But I had been involved with LEAP long before deciding to go to college, back when LEAP was still Salem CyberSpace. I first heard about Cyber, as we all still call it in my family, from my older brother. At the time, Cyber was the place where by brother disappeared into after school and didn’t emerge from until after dark. One day I was sent to get my brother, and as I was waiting for him to gather his things, Linda approached me and invited me to come do my homework and said other stuff that I only half understood. So, with that invitation Cyber went from being my brother’s hiding place, to my own refuge.
From that first day I walked into LEAP, Linda became someone I looked up to and knew I could confide in. Over the years, Linda has had so many important roles in my life. When we moved to Lynn during my sophomore year of high school she not only arranged for me and my brother to finish the year at our current schools, but also personally enrolled us in our new schools. Linda also gave me my first job as a summer intern at Salem CyberSpace designing websites.
While in college, I’ve met with Andrea and Betty. I made an instant connection with both of them. Our biweekly meetings became my safe space, where I shared my struggles and achievements; so it was basically free therapy.
Another person I would like to thank is Jesenia. I always felt like getting me into college was Jesenia’s special mission. With my immigration status, we knew it was going to be a more challenging process than usual, so Jesenia helped with every single one of my 16 college applications and personally proofread every essay I wrote.
Even though I had completed high school in the U.S., I was still considered an international student and all my acceptance letters came with a price tag too high for my family to afford. With the help of Dr. Meservey, who Linda wrote to explain my situation, I was able to start at Salem State at in state tuition rates. Once I decided on an engineering degree Jesenia helped me with the transfer to Northeastern. Today I am proud to say that I will be graduating debt free, thanks to the financial support of the Stephen Phillips Scholarship, the LaCLA scholarship and of course the amazing financial aid package I received from Northeastern.
Over the years the people at LEAP have impacted my life in many ways. Through LEAP, I’ve received academic, emotional and at times even mental support to deal with all the challenges and obstacles life has thrown at me. The LEAP staff are not only my greatest support system, but also part of my family. Since I moved to the U.S., LEAP has been part of every stage of my life, whether it was helping me to advance or simply listening to me when that was all I needed. Since I have received so much from them, in this new stage of my life I hope to be able to pay it forward and maybe 10 years from now I can be sitting in your chair listening to how I have impacted someone else’s life through this organization. Thank you.
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