There it was. That dreadful first day. Manaica Wiley steps into her first class at Northwest Middle school and walks to her seat amidst a crowded chorus room; she feels anxious about her first interactions with new faces she’s never seen, but starts talking to the people around her. Its not nearly as bad as she feared. The folks around her quickly connect to Mana and soon they share a friendship. This became one of many steps along the road of her life’s adventure.
Mana is originally from Jacmel, Haiti: a warm, bustling port town in the Southernmost part of the Caribbean island. She lived there for the first several years of her life and grew up with five brothers and two sisters. She maintains a robust connection to her family back home and never goes too long without talking to them on the phone. Mana has a very strong connection to her family, and it is a value she treasures. Last year, she was planned to visit family in Haiti, but the global pandemic had other plans, as most of us have collected from the past year.
During her eighth grade year in 2016, she was adopted by an American family and moved to Tennessee. She first flew into Florida and made her way up the continental US. Her first day at Northwest Middle was riddled with nerves; Mana is a quiet, introverted person, so “the social change was the most difficult part,” she said. Learning American customs and traditions can be considered a culture shock, and getting to know other children can be a strenuous task.
Many international students face this same obstacle every year when they migrate to the United States. For introverts, the first day of school can be an incredibly dreadful notion. As each child’s watchful eyes flickered back to her occasionally, she couldn’t help but feel alone. In Haiti, Mana spoke Creole, one of the two official languages of the nation. Learning English was “relatively easy” though, she said. Walking into a new classroom with new people is something that everyone dreads- and this can lead to feelings of isolation, sadness and frustration. As she has progressed through grade school, she has acquired several friendships and maintains them well.
As far as Mana’s story goes though, you can find her playing for the Emerald Youth Foundation soccer team called La Liga in the spring; you can also see her hiking when the sun shines. Coronavirus again made a return and impacted her season, “but it was still fun,” she said. Faith is also a massive part of her life, as she refers back to the faith she has in Christ to help her through life’s many obstacles. “He’s helped me through a lot of hard times,” she said. Friendship, faith, and family are the most important and personal pillars that back the foundation of her life.
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