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Wednesday, April 17, 2024 — Houston, TX

JB Makhani

OPINION 11/10/15 11:50am

Charting My Next Chapter

Senior year is turning out to be everything I hoped it would. The relationships I have built over the past 3 years have never felt stronger and I have finally started to master how to efficiently manage my time in college! The only sad part? Graduating in December.If you’d asked me three years ago where I was headed after graduation, I would’ve laid out my plan in full detail. From the moment I arrived on campus, I’d been preparing for law school with an eventual career in politics. Then, a few summers ago – my first teaching 9th grade Literature at Breakthrough Houston – things began to change. This work made me feel different. As much as I’d enjoyed working on campaigns and other politics-related endeavors, meeting my students was pretty much all it took to point me in a new direction.This fall, I’ll start teaching full-time, this time as a corps member with Teach For America.When I think about next steps, I know this is the one for me. And still, I’m nervous.  Will I be good enough for my kids? Will I enjoy teaching in a challenging environment?  But I’m sustained by what I know. Education isn’t serving all kids in this country. This is the most pressing issue in our country. Joining the corps will give me a chance to make an impact, develop my skills, and even hold on to some of the things I’ve loved most about Rice – a sense of community, independence and creativity, relationships that matter.One of the biggest challenges I’ll face is rooted in forces much bigger than me. When we zoom out, we see that the problems in our schools didn’t start there – they reflect deep, systemic, overlapping injustice across race, class and geography. A family who can’t access health services and who struggles to keep both parents employed. Those working multiple jobs need after school care but don’t live in communities with the resources to provide it. Each inequity makes the next one worse. Some might see this as a reason not to try – to wait until we solve poverty to try to tackle change in school. I see it as a driver to do as much as we can as soon as we can. Every day, I’m more anxious to graduate and get inside the classroom.When we come together to help kids change the way they think about their own abilities and futures, we create classrooms full of students who are dreaming big. When we equip them with the skills and tools to thrive in and out of the classroom, we cultivate boundless potential – the future scientists, politicians, writers, artists, doctors, attorneys who shape the world we are all going to share. It won’t happen overnight. It will take sustained, thoughtful effort. I want to be a part of it. I have had these kinds of experiences in two short summers, but I know the relationships I make with my students will be forever-lasting and will continue to grow.I don’t know how this next part of my life will play out. Then again, I feel like the questions I have been striving to answer in my four years are the same ones that all Rice students are looking to resolve. Maybe I will love teaching and never want to leave the classroom, or maybe I’ll become a principal, or launch a start-up to address some of challenges my students face. Wherever I go and in whatever I do, these experiences at Rice have encouraged me to do what is important and meaningful to me. Looking back on my experience with less than two months from December graduation, I encourage every one of you to seek out meaningful experiences. Rice provides an excellent environment to pass through the trials and tribulations of finding a career, but it takes a certain type of person to take advantage and learn from those times. Be that person.I cannot wait for the fall.JB Makhani is a Duncan College senior.