When you were young, you maybe had a dream. You were going to fly to the moon, pass EC 5, cure cancer. Then, you grew up. You cut your hair, chose your major, changed your outlook. You changed a lot, but did you change your dream?
Last summer, sophomore Sana Ahmed returned home to Los Angeles to work at a summer camp for the fourth consecutive year. One of her campers, a four-year-old boy named Ben, pouted through the camp photo shoot, as evidenced by the picture on Sana’s discrete math binder in which Sana glows as she embraces a tiny girl named Olivia. Despite Sana’s constant, energetic efforts to coax Ben out of his self-imposed isolation, Ben held himself out of many group activities, and he persistently refused to eat his lunch.
At the end of the camp, Sana asked her campers to let her know when they were leaving because she had made friendship bracelets for each of them. Ben promptly spent the rest of the day telling Sana how much he loved her. During lunch, when she casually commented that she loved campers who ate their lunches, Sana smiled when she saw that she had inspired Ben to finish his entire meal. She emphasizes, “Kids are capable of a lot … You have to realize that you do make a difference. That’s why I keep going back to camp.”
Back when Sana was Ben’s age, she didn’t go to camp. She didn’t even go to preschool. Sana’s parents are immigrants, and she remarks, “My mom didn’t know that preschool was an option.” Sana started learning English in kindergarten, but by second grade, Sana’s teacher recognized her potential, and Sana decided that she wanted to be a second-grade teacher. Nine years later, as a high school junior, she visited that influential teacher. Sana expressed to the teacher, “I’m in the process of applying to colleges, and thank you for all that you did for me.”
In high school, Sana excelled in 13 AP classes. By her senior year, a laundry list of self-satisfied schools had sent her a slew of sleek pamphlets that trumpeted their academic credentials, but Tufts humbly sent her a copy of JUMBO Magazine, and Sana was convinced. She applied to Tufts early decision because, as she explains, “I had a really strong gut feeling that I’d be happy here.”
Over winter break, Sana told her high school counselor, “Yeah, I declared my major. I don’t like the weather. I go into Boston pretty often. I really like where I am; I don’t have any regrets.” Sana, the newly declared math major, hasn’t run the exact calculations, but she asserts, “I literally would not be here if it wasn’t for every single teacher from my childhood.”
This summer, Sana literally won’t be here. She will once more return home, where she will always find new Olivias to hug and new Bens to encourage. In a few years, she would love to teach math at her old high school. Sana concludes, “I want to make the difference that my teachers have made in my life. I think that will keep me going forward.”