To learn is a privilege. It is your chance to grow. It is your chance to live.
I have recently been accepted to my dream university in Rome, Italy. But before I get into that, I will introduce myself. I will try to keep it short, even though there is a lot to say.
My name is Leila Saleh . I am a twenty-three-year-old ESL teacher born and raised in Los Angeles, California. This July will mark twelve years since I’ve moved to South Lebanon abruptly when I was only 11 years old. At a very young age, I learned how so much can change in the blink of an eye.
In California, I was always a top achiever in my class and my teachers around me made sure I knew it. Living in an underprivileged area, my wonderful teachers never let the sparks in our eyes go out despite the atmosphere around us. They made sure that at every moment, while paying out of their own pockets for chalk and school supplies, that we understood that education wasn’t only a matter of gathering information, but a way to experience life. I never took this for granted- not then and not now.
Flash forward, and I found myself in Lebanon in a strange, most dire situation. It was after the 2006 invasion on South Lebanon. I was an adolescent, forced to drop out of school at the age of 14, because of the corrupt Ministry of Education trying to embezzle money from my working class father. They would not recognize me as a student unless he paid thousands of dollars he didn’t have. They tossed my school papers away and I was never recognized as a student in this country. The two years I completed in Lebanon weren’t acknowledged and I was left with only a sixth grade education. Sufferance and depression ensued, but I just kept pushing on…
I stayed home for most of my teenage life. It was just as you may imagine it to be- lonely, hard, and tiresome. Yet, and I still don’t know ‘til this day how I found it in me to never lose the passion to learn. I instinctively kept homeschooling myself because learning was a habit, not something I felt like I needed to do. My friends (and they know who they are) never let the fire go out either. They encouraged me to keep being myself.
Although, school, let alone higher education, was a dead dream for me. It was just something I thought I could never afford to do.
I decided to volunteer in Palestinian refugee camps to fill my days. I learned that many of them were left helpless academically, just like me. Together, we bonded and decided to be an active force in the community to encourage others to keep learning.
I am an adult now. After receiving my CELTA certificate (despite needing a BA to get one), I began teaching in private schools as well as training teachers in Lebanon. I thought, that with effort, I can finally be recognized and be taken seriously. However, you can only get so far with effort. You need to keep learning.
I began contacting John Cabot University, who were very interested in my situation, and they pushed me to continue my education. I saved some cash, did my G.E.D. (it costs more internationally), and applied. Months later, I am sitting here with an acceptance letter and a Presidential Scholarship.
I never dreamed that this would happen. The only school I applied for, on a total whim, accepted me and with a scholarship. The scholarship is applicable for eight semesters, as well as a grant. This has almost cut my tuition in half. Although, it is still not enough. I make less than minimum wage as a teacher and take care of expenses so I do not have a legitimate amount of savings in the bank.
I opened this GoFundMe in hopes that someone will read this and help me keep that spark as bright as possible. I am putting all my savings into my higher education, as a way to validate myself and to continue living life.
I make so little money that literally anything will help. Everything will be appreciated. Anyone who takes the time to acknowledge that my education is important to them has my eternal respect.
Lots of love,