“Keep going and build connections. If you help someone, there is a door open for you.”
Despite graduating in May 2019, Leydi Ballesteros, Morris Innovative High School alumna, continues to spend her Fridays giving back as a volunteer with the school's Translation Academy.
Paige Watts, a teacher at Morris Innovative High School, established the Translation Academy in August of 2013. The academy aims to provide a translation service to people in the community who face language barriers as well as an authentic learning experience for students involved. Students assist with language barriers by getting involved in educational, health and community events to help close the communication gap that exists within Dalton. It allows students to learn basic vocabulary skills, pronunciation and sentence formation, and gives them increased confidence.
When Leydi moved to the United States at 16 years old from Colombia she had no prior knowledge of English. She enrolled in the academy to learn English and was able to successfully accomplish that goal.
Leydi said she wanted to continue to volunteer at the Translation Academy after graduation in order to help those in need.
"Being a volunteer is something that each student should do," Ballesteros said. "It opens the door, their mind and it's amazing to see what happens when you work with the community. The world isn't just about you but it's about others dealing with their own struggles and problems as well."
Ric Murry, a former teacher of Leydi's, elaborated on Leydi's determination, dedication and ability to persevere despite her life circumstances.
"Leydi has proven that this is the land of opportunity," Murry said. "If you apply yourself, learn what you have to know and you're not afraid to introduce yourself to other people, there will be plenty of people who will help you achieve your dreams."
Murry also explained that Leydi has a willingness to give.
"She's not just somebody who takes," Murry stated. "She's also someone who is giving back to her community and started doing it immediately. That's hard to find in a young person who is only 16 or 17 years old and from another country."
Ballesteros knows the importance of building relationships with people who come from different countries and backgrounds. She said she feels satisfaction knowing she has a role in that.
"I love what I do," Ballesteros said. "Each year you receive different kids and adults that you get to know and teach. You can see how they transition and evolve and it's a good feeling to know you had a part in that."
Her advice to future students who want to take part in volunteering for the Translation Academy: "Keep going and build connections. If you help someone, there is a door open for you."