Student Highlight: Carolina A.
May 4, 2022
Ashbrook’s Teaching American History programs reach the young through those who teach the young, transforming the hearts and minds of the students they teach.
Carolina A., from Lehigh Acres, Florida, is one of those students. Her parents are both immigrants from South America who came to the United States in search of a better life. They started from scratch and didn’t even speak English when they first arrived. But they worked hard and built a safe home for Carolina and her sister, and eventually helped her attend university. They were able to do this because America offered them freedom, prosperity, and security. Carolina says that “realizing this as I was growing up was one of the first things that made me love America.”
Yet, she felt conflicted about her love for America. Born after the patriotic sentiment that followed 9/11, Carolina doesn’t remember a time when the country wasn’t divided. In that environment, it was hard for her to be sure about her love of country, especially when she was hearing so many voices crying out that America was evil, permanently stained by racism and oppression.
Fortunately, Carolina discovered the foundation she never knew she was missing in a classroom with an Ashbrook teacher. In middle school, she studied American history with Mr. Greg Balan, who later went on to graduate from Ashbrook’s Teaching American History graduate program. In Mr. Balan’s class, she read the Declaration of Independence and Constitution for the first time. She dug into other primary source documents written by the statesmen that set the course to make America what it is today. People like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Balan taught Carolina how to read these documents carefully and how to understand each author as they understood themselves. She and the other students in her class had conversations—conversations in which they were free to think, debate, and even respectfully disagree with each other.
As Mr. Balan’s student, Carolina says she “discovered a real sense of the history and principles of America. More than that, I came to understand and appreciate my country and was prepared to do my part as a citizen.” She received the education and gained the confidence she needed to stand up for America without shame.
After she graduated high school, Carolina wanted to learn more. That’s why with Mr. Balan’s encouragement, she applied for and became an undergraduate student in the Ashbrook Scholar Program.
Now, Carolina has the opportunity to continue her studies of American history and government with some of the best professors in the nation. She explores big questions about freedom, justice, and good government in order to learn all those things that will not only prepare her for a fulfilling career but will also help her to live as a truly free human being.
Carolina is just one of the many students Mr. Balan has taught over the years. And Mr. Balan is just one of many Ashbrook teachers.
With your support, Ashbrook can reach many more teachers like Mr. Balan—teachers who will reach more students like Carolina. Ashbrook’s In the Spirit of ’76 initiative will reach 45,000 teachers and millions of students in the years to come.