The first decades of my life made me believe that you can do it all on your own..
Every obstacle life throws at you can be overcome and all you need is the true desire to want to be better off than your predecessors.. ‘wanna get outta the ‘hood? do it, only person stopping you is you’.
Yet what I have learned after being in the classroom and interacting with parents, single mothers, involved fathers, grandmothers, older siblings is that it does take all of us to assist in the making of a successful human being.
Today is the birthday of a former student, now almost graduate of FIT with a Bachelors in Fine Arts, for Fashion Design, not surprised if it will be Summa Cum Laude after experiencing first hand his incessant need for perfection.
I first met Fabian Salazar as a freshmen back in 2012. He was in his element at Fashion High. He came to school dressed to the nines with full on makeup, and six inch heels and his confidence was contagious. He was a cross between ‘the cool kid’ and ‘the nerd’, a combination not many know how to carry nor commit to. He was known to students and teachers alike, all for positive reasons and that’s why I always cared for his growth.
He was enrolled in my Fashion Illustration class and learning Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator could’ve been more challenging than his drawing skills, but he got it. Drawing fashion illustrations came naturally to him and his conviction of becoming a future designer along with his dedication is what compelled me to enter him in an Art competition at the time.
I remember going to the event seven years ago, knowing he would be there yet being surprised to meet not only his mom but his dad too.
The reality is that I gave into the real yet stereotype that not many LGBTQ children are supported by their parents, some even disown their own children when they come to learn of their children’s nature and the casualties are higher in minority communities. I thought ‘he’s Ecuadorian so don’t be surprised if they don’t show up’, but I was wrong.
I met a very beautiful young proud mom worthy of being a protagonist in a telenovela and a young modest dad that thought showing up for his son, was just ‘normal’ and then and there I remember thinking, ‘I don’t have to worry about him’. He’s going to be o.k.
There’s something that happens with teachers and some students, or maybe it’s just me.. When we meet certain students, that have this flicker, a hidden talent that we get to witness and there’s something that makes us want to protect it, protect them, nurture them.. and we worry about them and do what we can to make sure they thrive.. that doesn’t happen for all or to all, because I’ve also learned that it takes both the teacher as well as the student to WANT that flicker to ignite.
And Fabian’s flicker has slowly ignited into this flame that has the promise to burn all other houses down.
He has been patient and meticulous and non-discriminant about what he is willing to learn. His openness about what he can absorb has known no bounds and that drive lead him to enter Brooklyn Fashion Week by the end of his 3rd year of high school.
He composed a 10 look collection that met the standards of professional designers featured that year. To be that young and to know what your purpose is, is not experienced by many and to do humbly is an even bigger feat.
I remember wanting him to participate in Fashion’s Study Abroad Program that takes place in Florence, but experiencing a problem that I somehow didn’t understand. I went as far as going to the Italian Embassy so they could explain what the obstacle was. He had an Ecuadorian passport and the expiration date on it was too close to his return date to NYC. I still didn’t understand. That afternoon his mother called and tearfully said ‘Ms. Chavez’ he’s a dreamer’, confused I thought, ‘well of course he is, he’s full of ideas!! That’s what keeps his talent going’, I was clueless.. She was referring to DACA. Even though she may have thought it shameful, it made me respect him even more. The path he was on was non reliant on government assistance, and it was proving to be successful. The only thought was, how will he be able to finance college without financial aid? That remained to be seen.
Fabian went on to do the things all American high school teenager do, go to prom and graduate and get accepted to college.
At FIT, he received his Associates in Fashion Design and then moved on to his Bachelor’s, which he is scheduled to earn at the end of this semester.
All while working job after job as well as tutoring other students at FIT and student teaching at Fashion High.
Fabian has also shown to be a promising young adult. He was there to celebrate my successes, as I was there for his. He came to cheer me on the night I received my first CTE Teacher of the Year award.. He has given me faith in what some call ‘kindness’ by simply showing up. Generosity of time is rare and not many give it, therefore I am in awe when I witness it.. I definitely couldn’t have achieved an award such as that one without having students such as him… I believe the success of a teacher can be measured by the success of their students.
Today on Facebook, his mother posted a beautiful happy birthday reminder, letting him know how much of a blessing he has been and how proud she is of him.
I never doubted that, as her written love note for her son took me back to the days she use to call my classroom after school to check that he was indeed in the building and not in the street. for a teacher this could be concerning because you think that there is no trust between parent and child but I slowly came to realize her fears..
She is the mother of an LGBTQ child, worse, a PROUD LGBTQ child that didn’t care what the world thought and more power to them but the fact was that the only TWO places that cared and protected him was school and home..
we still live in a world that will hurt you, even see your death because you are that way.. and that was her fear
and so I welcomed her calls and reassured her he was o.k.
And today he’s more than o.k.
I believe that he would’ve gone this far all in his own because he’s not only talented, he’s resilient and tenacious and driven. All traits you must possess to thrive…
but he had a loving and supportive mother there for him, loving him unconditionally.
A loving family, father, grandparents, siblings.. a network of friends that formed a village to carry him through.
It breaks my heart to know so many LGBTQ children do not make it this far.