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My eyes were burning from the tear gas and I was having trouble breathing under my white bandana, but I was determined to keep going; I was not going to let them stop me—stop us from peacefully marching for our freedom. I was part of what seemed like the majority, marching against the injustice in my home country of Venezuela. From a very young age all I can remember is hearing about the old Venezuela. It was one of the richest countries in the world; one where its citizens lived happily, peacefully, and prosperously. Unfortunately, I never experienced the old Venezuela. The Venezuela I grew up in is strikingly different. As soon as I was old enough, I eagerly joined my classmates and thousands of other citizens in peaceful protests, marching for a better Venezuela. The youth is the future of the country, but with government cancelling classes for weeks at a time for insignificant reasons, too many of us are deprived a proper education, rendering the future even more at risk. The constant canceling of classes is just one of the failures of the Venezuelan educational system that makes it very hard for us to gain the knowledge necessary to fight for change. This is why it is up to us—the students—to do everything in our power to fight for our education and a better future. My classmates and I participated in peaceful protests before, but this time was different. For reasons I still do not understand, the police threw tear gas bombs and shot rubber bullets at us, a crowd of non-violent protestors. My friend was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, and was inches away from losing his left eye. While this was going on another one of my friends who was by my side, was apprehended for aiding our other friend. He was jailed for a week before his parents could finally find someone to help facilitate his release. I was lucky. It could have been me. I could have spent a week in jail for participating in a nonviolent protest. I have been given an amazing opportunity to do my senior year at Brunswick School. While it is very hard to be away from my family, the opportunity to gain a strong education is so important to me. In my short time here I am able to see the large difference in educational systems. Unlike in Venezuela, students here are provided the tools necessary to be successful learners and ultimately achieve their goals. The teachers in the United States are more willing to help students and, the courses are far more challenging. In Venezuela, the government dictates what is taught and I was discouraged from thinking independently. Here, teachers push you to apply what you are learning as opposed to just asking you to recite memorized facts. I find that I am encouraged to think freely and express my own opinions and I do not have to worry about getting reprimanded. Also, in Venezuela, there are many distractions that limit a student’s ability to succeed. For example, students constantly are distracted with the political situation and often times live in fear. As a student here, I am free to concentrate on school without these pressures. This wonderful opportunity is not something I take lightly. I understand education is a privilege and I intend to work hard to achieve my goals. Although I feel guilty leaving my friends and family behind in these difficult times, I know they will continue marching for our cause. And in my own way, by learning all that I can while a student in the United States, I am continuing the march, too. For someday I hope I can use all I have learned to change Venezuela’s current path and restore it to the old Venezuela that I have heard so much about.
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