Ifedamola Anifowose
Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School
Washington, DC
11th Grade
Second Place Winner, District of Columbia

What does the American Dream mean to you and is it still striving in Greater Washington?

The American Dream means a lot to different individuals based on their goals motivations and individual foundations. To me, the American dream means solid education, scholarships, affordable living conditions, peace in my community, getting exposed in the educational sector locally and globally, and networking with important, ambitious individuals who can inspire me. I view the American Dream differently based on my own life experiences and future plans for my success. The American Dream is a vital issue that can determine the realization of these points listed above.

The American dream means acquiring solid education which without any doubt will improve one’s life. As a young boy who migrated from Nigeria at the age of 15, my experiences living there and the quality of education I received cannot be compared to the quality of education in the United States of America. My grandmother took on the burden of filing for immigration for me and my entire extended family because of what she believes and knows that the migration to this country will set our future on a new path. Education in Nigeria is costly, unlike in the United States of America, and not guaranteed to every young aspiring individual in the country. The educational system is split into two parts: the public sector and the private sector. The private sector provides solid education which can only be afforded by parents of students who work in the government, not the parents of commoners. The cost to go to a well-equipped private school with experienced and knowledgeable teachers is very high, which makes the people of the average social class depend on incompetent public schools. The public school system of education, which is being controlled by the government, provides less or no adequate facilities to inspire students to learn comfortably and pursue their dreams. The public school system works in a way that the possibility of a student to excel in the system is very rare. Teachers go on endless strikes because the government does not pay their salary on time which affects the students tremendously.

The inadequacy of the government and the financial status of my parents affected the quality of education I had. The school I attended was not well equipped with facilities that can aid learning and also the teachers were not willing to execute their jobs effectively . The American school system provides the solid education which I crave in terms of teaching the theory aspect of education, undergoing practical experience, especially in the science classes that will enable students who learn visually to grasp the content, and also go on field trips to give students experiences about the real life application of what is being taught. The public school system is set up in a way which provides adequate education to students depending on the standard of the school and how well the student coordinates his or herself. The American dream to me is still thriving in greater Washington area in terms of the educational system because there are constant modifications in the teaching style, where teachers are being educated on better and simpler ways to teach students which vary in the technological aspect. The introduction of educational websites, applications and other programs that keeps students updated and more educated.

The American dream to me means getting scholarship opportunities which will make college life and higher educational funding a possibility. The Junior achievement essay competition is an American dream to me. The ability to compete in scholarship opportunities like
this regardless of my social class, level of brilliancy, school capabilities is a proof that I am living the American Dream. One of the aims of migrating to the United States of America is to be the first generation college graduate in my family and attend college with the assurance of graduating without debt. The government of the United States of America cares deeply about its own citizens, and how they can match up with people from the other parts of the world in terms of education, sports, creativity, and success. All this is an American Dream to me because where I originated from, no student gets scholarships to sponsor them to college because the government does not look into that aspect of granting scholarships. The burdens of the cost for college or universities are being placed on the parents which mostly are unbearable, thereby leading to the high number of college dropouts. The scholarship opportunities in Washington D.C. alone give the fulfillment of one’s dream in terms of pursuing one’s career without hesitation.

The American dream to me means networking with ambitious, important, and well respected people and organizations in the country. As a student enrolled in my school's engineering academy, there have been various occasions which made it possible to create strong networks with big companies that are in partnership with my school. Unlike my own country where students for no reason can ever come in contact with company executives or government officials who are ready to share their stories with you and at the same time inspire you. The engineering program in my school has made several ways of connecting with influential people in the society. The ability to shadow an employee in the Architect of the Capitol, Library of Congress, visit the aviation center where students are able to communicate with aircraft engineers and even train to the extent that they are given the opportunity to fly the aircraft shows how committed the country and the educational sector are towards students achievement, which is the realization of my American Dream. These experiences are tremendous in ways that the realization of one’s American dream is in full effect. This great network made from all these events have given the opportunity for me to communicate with these successful individuals personally and also to come to the realization that success is achievable no matter the situation at hand and it only depends on my determination which I already have.

An occurrence that makes me know that the American Dream is still thriving was getting to talk, meet, and have a word with Captain Barrington Irving. He was the first black person to circumnavigate the world solo, and he was the record holder for the first youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo until it was broken in 2012 by Carlo Schmid. He explained the need to still believe in one’s dream and strive for it because there are opportunities available to make them a reality. He was able to achieve his American Dream which means I can also achieve mine.

The American Dream to me means having good living conditions and enjoying life to its fullest. The living status of the middle class exceeds my expectation because growing up was tough. One example of the opportunity provided by the government for the middle class is through the SYEP program which provides a work paid opportunities for young high school individuals like me. My participation in the Aspen Challenge is a fulfilment of my American Dream because it allowed me to connect with creative young individuals and also educate me more on things like food nutrition and the way America is being viewed by students from other nations. I was also able to share my own knowledge about things that I know.

The American Dream means more than overcoming the odds of life but also contributing positively in great measures to one’s society who is favoring you and making the dream come to manifestation. According to Susan Martinez, Success is the American Dream. And that success is not something to be ashamed of, or to demonize. Achieving my little success and transformation from what I used to be to what I am now am achieving my American Dream. I strongly believe that the American dream is still thriving in Greater Washington.