Global Politics

U.S. immigrant high school students reflect on American Dream

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Edwin Soto is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. (Photo by 826 Boston.)

Summer vacation begins for students in Boston this week. For a group of 11th graders, they’re looking forward not just to vacation, but also to becoming published authors.

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Fifteen immigrant students from Boston International High School will be featured in a new publication called “So What Now?” The book is a collection of reflections on the American Dream. The young authors are from places like Sudan, Albania, and Colombia.

Among them is Edwin Soto, a 17-year-old high school junior from the Dominican Republic.

His piece “Now in Heaven, So What’s After?” was written as part of a collaboration between Soto’s English class, taught by Kristin Russo, and the non-profit 826 Boston, a non-profit group that helps young, under-resourced students explore creative writing. The group 826 National was founded by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninivive Calegari a decade ago in San Francisco.

When Soto moved to Boston three years ago, his first day of class was a tough transition.

"When I came here, I didn’t speak any English. Actually, on the first day of school, I didn’t even know what a notebook was or nothing," he said.

Today, Soto is a charismatic, engaging young man, easily conversant in English. And a soon-to-be published author.

In his essay, Soto focuses on a sport that is cherished in both the United States and the Dominican Republic: baseball.

“I’m almost the number one fan of baseball," he insisted. "My favorite player is Alex Rodriquez. And Pedro Martinez, that’s my favorite.”

Soto has been to Yankee stadium to see A-Rod play. And while Soto says he loves rooting for players with Dominican roots, he writes in his essay that too many boys back home have unrealistic expectations of becoming the next A-Rod or Pedro Martinez.

“I still love baseball, but in some ways I actually hate it. Because maybe not here in the United States, but in my country, I think it’s the major cause the country is the way it is," he wrote. "All of those kids, they drop out of high school, and they think that if they play baseball that means that they’re going to make it. And that’s not the reality.”

Soto says in the United States, boys can play in school, then college. If they don’t make it professionally, they have other options. He says it doesn’t work that way for boys back in the Dominican.

“They got released without nothing, just their dreams," he said.

In many ways, Soto is already living his American dream. In his essay, Soto writes about everyday luxuries, such as a warm shower. These little things are easy to take for granted.

“I never hear someone saying that, an American saying, that they’re glad to have hot water and electricity, all those things. They can even go watch a NBA game or a baseball game anytime they want. But in Dominican Republic and other countries, that’s a dream to people," he said.

Soto says he’d like to go to college next year, then maybe become a fire fighter. Baseball’s not his dream.

“My dream is to have a successful life. Maybe a career or a job to sustain my family and get enough money, so I can be happy," he said.

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