I was super nervous but super excited…

Grace and Diamante Design Thinking at GTT Maine 2015

Grace and Diamante Design Thinking at GTT Maine 2015

I was super nervous but super excited…

In the midst of the 2013 summer heat in Harlem NY, I was awaiting a whole new adventure that I had only seen in movies and TV shows with faces that I could never recognize because they did not look like me, because they did not share the same skin tone. This was the preview of my summer camp…

I was attending my first all-girls sleepaway camp. On the first day, I was the first student to arrive and, ten minutes later, the other female campers came. The awkward exchanges of glances soon faded away as we all went on the bus and started to get to know one another. After all the name games in the beginning of the bus ride, a male voice echoed from the driver seat of the bus. “Welcome, girls! I’m Dave Aldrich and I’m the camp CEO of Grab the Torch.” All the girls simultaneously said “hello” and Mr. Aldrich began speaking. After everyone introduced themselves, he asked a question: “Who are the two most important Supreme Court Justices?” Ultimately, I shouted from my seat in the back: “SONIA SOTOMAYOR,” as if that figure was someone who I knew personally, as if she was my favorite aunt in the family. I took pride in answering this question because I could remember the marvelous time seeing a Puerto Rican woman rise up as a Supreme Court Justice in the Obama Administration. Mr. Aldrich was immediately impressed by this answer and followed up with “What about the other Supreme Court Justice?” Using the head mirror of the driver see to look up at all the girls on the bus, my eyes darted away as soon as I saw Mr. Aldrich’s blue eyes. Instead of an answer, there was silence, but more of an absence. All the girls stared out the window as if the roadkill or billboards would give some answer. It was only a few minutes later that he shouted: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” All the girls in the bus collectively said “oh.” Then, Mr. Aldrich began lecturing about Ruth and Sonia and how their influence has shaped the walls of government. After the bus ride, Mr. Aldrich stopped me and said, “You had such conviction in your answer, that was impressive.” I thanked him, not knowing what conviction meant at the time, but noticing the blue eyes he had, I felt this reassurance.

You see, my eyes had only seen other eyes like my own. I had only seen blue eyes from my teachers at school or after school specials on TV (those eyes were remnants of apple pie, old school baseball uniforms, the true American values.) Seeing Mr. Aldrich’s eyes gave me a feeling of comfort in meeting this new person, who was ultimately going to help change my life for the better. It was the bus ride that shaped who I am as a person and also created an unforgettable mentor relationship with Mr. Aldrich, who would later see me cry from the amazing friendships I have made throughout all my years at GTT.

 

Diamante Ortiz 

GTT Connecticut Alumna, 2013
GTT Maine Alumna, 2015