Grab The Torch Change My Life

Throughout my life, I have been given an immense amount of support in all I have pursued. I believe all individuals deserve that support because everyone is important and has a purpose. One of my earliest memories took me years to come to terms with. A slamming car door woke me up abruptly, only to hear my mother’s voice telling my father he was no longer going to drag us into his destructive downward spiral of poor decisions. I hid my eyes, because I could hear him screaming and my mom whimpered as he threw her head against the car. When she broke free and reentered the car she stared at me with love and hopelessness. Though she was hurt badly, her only concern was that I was okay and my life would not be consumed with violence, but with love and endless opportunities.

My past is why I see myself pursuing a career in social work. That memory is with me every day and although I cannot change the past, I can help others in the same way my family was helped. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Aldrich in the summer of 2010 when I was given the opportunity to attend GTT through the Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club. I was awarded a scholarship honoring Alan Hassenfeld of Hasbro. Mr. Hassenfeld is one of the most prominent business leaders in RI.

Mr. Aldrich is a remarkable individual who endlessly devotes himself to educating youth of the importance of giving back and “being the change you wish to see in the world”.  He has given me the fundamental material to understand the importance of giving back and pursuing a life that is centered on making a difference.  GTT and all the speakers instilled in me that anything is possible even the impossible through pursuing my passion.

The fundamentals GTT provided me with has become the framework of who I am today.  My passion for helping others continued to cultivate through coursework in psychology, volunteering, and job opportunities, I feel I am prepared to enter a career in social work where I can make a difference. The study of anthropology has allowed for my knowledge to grow significantly in the study of people by looking at the combination of power and health, gender dynamics, the basis of social cohesion through increasing global population, cross-cultural thinking, and the impacts of cultural-societal change.

An opportunity arose to study these fields abroad in Apia, Samoa where the class-based learning was brought into real-world scenarios. This experience allowed for tremendous growth and understanding in my fields of study, as well as a calling to a career path that embodied what I was passionate towards helping others. My independent research project allowed me to conduct extensive research into the resources available for “intellectually handicapped” individuals and their families. My research looked at the Aoga Fiamalamalama School for the intellectually handicapped and the programs implemented in the organization to help Samoans with special needs. This was done through research that revolves around observations and analyses of the physical activity energizers and the effects of these activities on the students’ active learning in the classroom setting and the feedback from administration and staff. After studying abroad in Samoa, I acquired a deeper understanding that social work was an attainable career path and an important one for the greater good.

This idea continued to cultivate through volunteer and work experience at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which was introduced to me by GTT. Working alongside a diverse group of individuals allowed me to see the endless opportunities available when helping others. These experiences reinforced my passion and aspirations for helping others. My ultimate career and life goals are to advocate for and work with children and their families to offer support, guidance, and opportunities to be the best they can be and improve their quality of life. I was fortunate to attend GTT three additional sessions, all full scholarship opportunities. Each session was filled with new speakers, students and programming.

My main goal is to give individuals a voice just like Mr. Aldrich gave me when I was fourteen and believed that my life was predetermined by my circumstances. He saw something in me that others didn’t. The way in which Mr. Aldrich exhibits himself through his program and lifestyle emphasizes the importance of leadership, ethics, philanthropy, and that everyone has the potential to make a difference for the greater good regardless of their socioeconomic standings. I want the individuals I am working with to be heard and part of the process, because it is their life and I want them to maintain the control, independence, and sense of meaning just gave me.

There are going to be times where I will be challenged but I am confident in my abilities. When working to better others, there is no objective solution and each situation is unique. Mr. Aldrich is a man with a passion that burns radiantly to educated youth and future generations that we can make a difference and that the future is near. He taught me to always to ‘give to give, not to get’. I once said to him “how can I ever repay or thank you enough” he replied with a simple request “just invite me to your wedding” I quickly said, “you’re not only coming, but you’re walking me down the aisle” He has repeated that story year after year to other students, saying it’s the best gift he’s ever received at GTT.

I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree at Columbia University School of Social Work with the framework GTT has given me, rest assured, I will continue to ‘grab the torch’ in all that I do. The torch burns bright and leads me every day.

Coral Santos, GTT ’10, ’11 ’12 ’13 (CT, VT and CO)