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Paying it forward: a thank you from Zhao (9)

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Paying it forward: a thank you from Zhao (9)

Erin Zhao

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Along with many teens, this summer I got my first job. I was beyond ecstatic, I truly believed that I was on the road to the rich and famous life. However, I was soon brought back into reality when I realized that my increased income also meant increased responsibilities. By the end of the summer, though I had earned around a thousand dollars, I only had about two hundred left after paying for computer science classes and soccer.

The original plan was to use this money to buy a clunky laptop to access Google Drive, but right before school started again, I received an email. It was from Dr. Kelly and Ms. Perez. I was informed that I would be able to use a MacBook Air to help me during the school year.

When I was told that my worries were for naught, my knees buckled and tears leaked out of my eyes. Over the course of my education at Horace Mann, the gifts I have been given came in the form of powerful learning tools, financial aid, and an open and warm community of peers and teachers. And so many people have helped me along my academic adventure that I couldn’t possibly thank them all in one piece.

So, I want to start with one person. Thank you, Dr. Kelly, for equipping me with the tools necessary for learning; for creating a warm and accepting environment; and for giving me the opportunity to let my abilities dictate my future. As a student in a low-income household, being able to attend Horace Mann is already a dream come true. During my first year, it was made clear that all of my friends came from an entirely different background and anxiety about my friends looking down on me festered in the back of my head. I tried to blend in; I boasted about Christmas gifts I didn’t get, complained about my non-existent housekeeper, and groaned about the extra work that my imaginary tutor gave me. I obviously couldn’t keep it a secret for long, and I saw that my anxiety was unfounded. People seemed more willing to help, and the community didn’t ostracize me but embraced me.

But I still wondered if I deserved such marvelous friends, peers, or teachers. I doubted if I could pay back everyone or make every single gift worthwhile.
So I decided to pass on all of my gifts, to pay it forward, and I began that by attending the Thanksgiving dance where proceeds would be donated to the Bone Marrow Foundation. At first, I was reluctant to go, but after realizing it was for a good cause, I changed my mind. And so, I used the last of the money I had earned during the summer and bought a ticket to the Bone Marrow Foundation. Beginning with this, I want share the hope and love I have been given with as many people in our community and beyond.

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Paying it forward: a thank you from Zhao (9)