Yowseph Ziyad, Notasulga High School

Having lived in Macon County for the majority of my life, I have observed every portion of exciting and suspenseful actions that have ever occurred dating back to 1995. I have seen the drug dealers, the gangbangers and shoplifters. I’ve heard the police sirens; I’ve seen the chases, and I’ve witnessed the accidents. I have seen the stress and the panic of 2001, and I have seen the turmoil that overcame the United States for the 8 years that followed. And I intend to explain to how I feel about the rural areas of Macon County, and exactly what I would like to see change.

I was born in 1995 in the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama, but I only stuck around there for a few hours after birth, when I was driven right back home to Tuskegee. When I was five years old, our home was broken into and vandalized. Under such circumstances, we were forced to move to Decatur for six months, during which we searched long and hard for a place to live. We moved back and stayed with my grandmother for a little while. The main part of life in Macon County was poverty, and our family experienced a lot of it.

Soon after the smooth transition into my grandmother’s home, which was near the edge of Tuskegee, my mother found a home in Shorter, Alabama, one where we could stay and attend public school in Tuskegee at the same time. Shorter was a more quiet part of Macon County, so we had no fear of burglaries or break –ins. But I soon regretted having to attend Tuskegee institute Middle School. During our first year, my brother and I experienced a large amount of bullying and harsh acceptance. I could tell that children there had it far worse than I could ever imagine. Things that I had never thought I would see, like the main bully of the school crying on the floor in the bathroom afterschool while talking on the phone, turned up around every corner of my day-to-day school life. I was not raised around these events, perhaps because I was homeschooled up to the 5th grade, so there was only so much of this that I could handle. Soon after the beginning of our 7th grade year, we withdrew from TIMS and enrolled into Notasulga High.

After spending some time alone with myself to think, I created a resolve in my heart: This is not what I want for my hometown. I don’t want my family to be subject to harsh lifestyle and poor ways of survival. I don’t want my older brother to believe that the only way he can take care of his family is to be on the corner dodging bullets. I don’t want to watch my best friends become trap goons and gang bangers. I want my existence to be the wellspring of my surrounding’s  lives. I want to be that one person who can say to himself, “You saved a life today.” I want to change.

So I began to better myself from that day forward, searching for anything and anyone that could possibly add to my metaphysical and mental growth. I sincerely thank my principal Ms. Brelinda Sullen for adding character building as a class in school. I have always strived for the top of my class in hope that perhaps I can create a whirlpool that would suck my peers into the same mindset. I tried my best each day for a better tomorrow.

Since I joined the Bridge Builders organization, I have realized that I knew very little about the county that I wanted so much to save. This program has informed me of not only the history of the people, but the history of the land that this wondrous county sits on. From the moment I signed up for the program, I knew that I had found exactly what I had been searching for: guidance. I found other students and mentors that thought the exact same way as me, so my job became so much easier. We would meet every week or so and be introduced to real-world facts, strategic points on how to make this county better for all, and wonderful food. We continuously learned more and more each day on how such a historically renowned area could be recognized for so much more. Our mentors spoke of certain attractions that would draw worldwide attention to Macon County. Also we were shown rates of crime and disturbances in the ‘darker’ places so that we could know which areas to target when going out to speak on peace and prosperity in a community.

Lastly, I have seen so much growth in home-town since I was five and I have noticed that even if there is no one to work the wheel, change will roll around regardless; it just goes so much more swiftly when someone has the reigns and is in control of the situation at hand. I think the word I’m looking for is leader, and a leader strives for the betterment of his surroundings through thick and thin.

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