The Journey Traveled

The following is a speech given during our Volunteer Appreciation Event by Kerenne Paul, School on Wheels of Massachusetts student and recent college graduate:

Booker T. Washington once said “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed”.

I would like to thank God first and foremost for granting me the opportunity to be amongst you all today. I would also like to thank my incessantly supportive family, my friends and you all for being here. But very importantly, I would like to thank School on Wheels for supporting my family for so long and for recognizing me as their first college graduate from the High School Plus Program.

We have all achieved a form of success in our lives; whether it is with our careers, our families, and our health or maybe with our inner lives. Many of us, if not all have had a taste of success of some sort and a number of us are still working towards achieving a particular form of it. It is really interesting to see how we work so hard towards our goals, towards achieving success, towards our accomplishments; however when we do achieve that very goal that we thought would define our strength and character, we realize that it is not the very accomplishment that is deserving of the credit for the strength that we have acquired or the person that we have become, but it is the journey that we traveled. 

Each and every one of us have traveled a particular journey, each unique in a way but each equally contributive in defining our character and the person that we are today. Today, I am here to tell you all a bit about my ongoing journey and how it has contributed to making me into the person speaking to you all today.

My family and I encountered School on Wheels about four years ago while residing at the Conway House, in Middleboro. For those of you who don’t know, the Conway House is a homeless shelter located in Middleboro Massachusetts. We were transferred to the house after spending several months at Super 8 motels both in Brockton and Fall River. It was during the fall of 2010, my senior year of High School. My family and I had reached a financial level where we could no longer provide for ourselves. See for most, it would have been a time of great sadness, anger, or even depression; however the foundation on which our family was built enabled us to face those days with faith, perseverance, hope and happiness. We recognized that the wall that we had just hit was only of a financial nature; our faith and our belief in our God remained untouched. For one, our family had just been reunited. My two older sisters, Milca and Nephthalie had just joined us from Haiti on a very short notice.

To give a bit of a background, my parents and I, along with my two younger brothers, Marc-Daniel and Marc-Kendy moved to the United States in December of 2006 following some tragic experiences that we survived in our home country of Haiti. At the time of our move, my older sisters did not have the proper documents to come along with us. So with tears in their eyes and a faithful heart, my parents made the brave decision to migrate to the United States leaving two pieces of their hearts behind. Their intent was to come set the stage for a life that would have more educational opportunities for us and therefore provide us with a better future. See the thing about my parents is that regardless of the situation that we face or the decision that has to be made, there are two things that they will never compromise, their faith and their children’s education.

In December of 2006, we settled in Pompano Beach, Florida. My parents did not waste any time in starting the documentation process for my sisters. We were told by many people that these kinds of procedures will take quite some time; some said that it could take well over five years. However, we believed that something special would happen and that our family would be reunited in less time than anyone could have predicted. Well it happened in less time than we could have predicted. In September of 2009, my sisters were able to join us and once again, our family was whole.

We made the move to Massachusetts in the summer of 2009. I was about to enter my senior year of High School and my parents decided that the state of Massachusetts would provide us with more educational opportunities. After all, having more educational opportunities was one of the driving forces behind their decision to move to the United States in the first place. Now I am sure you all can imagine how hard it must have been for me to switch schools during my senior year of high school but one thing I have learned from experience is to not doubt the motives behind my parents’ decisions because they are always God-driven.

Upon moving to Massachusetts, the challenges to adjust to a new state and to provide for a family of seven multiplied. We were faced with various trials that seemed as though they were set to crumble us in every way possible. But through it all, we laughed, we prayed and we rejoiced, knowing that our God had not taken us this far just to turn his back on us. We knew that through our adversities, a light would shine; a door of opportunities would open up and somehow, someway, we would be able to achieve our dreams of going to college and having a career and making an impact in our community. Well in our case, School on Wheel was that light that shone in our darkness and that door that opened up the many opportunities that we’ve had for the past years.

I met former School on Wheels coordinator, Emily Ring along with some other volunteer tutors one afternoon at the Conway House. We shared our story and our dreams with them. From that day, School on Wheels made it a goal of theirs to see us achieve our dreams. They provided me with help and support from day one. From assisting me with completing my college applications, to my FAFSA, to buying books every semester and assisting with my extra fees and balances, they made sure that I have every resource necessary in order for me to succeed in my college career.

Well, here I am, four years later, about to graduate from college with a degree in Mathematics and minors in Economics and Accounting. It has been a challenging four years, I have faced difficulties along the way but through it all, I have not lost sight of my dreams and where I want to be, I have not forgotten all of the investments and sacrifices made by my parents. Those thoughts fueled my motivation every day. I am happy to receive to be honored as the first School on Wheels College graduate today. I am happy to show other young people who at some point in their lives were affected by homelessness that there is a life and success beyond their trials. It is always humbling to see the smile on the faces of the school on wheels staff and tutors when they are making backpacks or tutoring young kids and young people like me or giving them books or supplies.

You guys inspire me to be great, you inspire me to push past my challenges and my fears and become an asset to the youth in my community. The inspiration that I get from you has helped me throughout my college career and it will continue to fuel in me a passion and a motivation to be great.

As I cross that stage on my commencement day, I will do so as a reminder that the struggles and the trials that we meet in our lives are not meant to put out our flames and stop our abillity to shine, but rather to strengthen and fuel our excitement, motivation, faith and humility and shape us into the person that we were designed to be.

Today, I want to encourage you all to live every day with a mindset that the best is yet to come.

Thank You.

 Kerenne Paul

(View a video of Kerenne's speech)

When Kerenne Paul graduates from UMass, Dartmouth on 5/16/2014 with a degree in mathematics and a minor in accounting/economics, she will be the first college graduate from our School on Wheels High School Plus Program. Cheryl Opper, Founder and Executive Director, had this to say, "Kerenne is poised, confident, resourceful, outgoing, smart, kind, and a hard worker. She is a very special young woman I have known for 5 years. I can't think of any  student I would give a higher recommendation for than Kerenne. She is a true winner in every aspect of the word! As a united community we are changing the face of homelessness and breaking the cycle of poverty one student, one education at a time."

Read more about this remarkable Paul Family.

Marc-Daniel Paul
Nepthalie and Milca Paul


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