Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive September 2016 Show 1639 Akash Patel - Educators Change Lives

Akash Patel - Educators Change Lives

Akash Patel tells thousands of CareerTech educators how two of their colleagues changed his life.
Akash Patel - Educators Change Lives

Akash Patel - Educators Change Lives

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Aspiring Americans

University of Michigan - Akash Patel


Francis Tuttle Technology Center

Show Details

Show 1639: Akash Patel - Educators Change Lives
Air Date: September 25, 2016



Rob McClendon: Each year CareerTech educators from across the state come together to kick off a new school year. And at this year’s summer conference, Akash Patel was a keynote speaker – telling the thousands in attendance how two of their colleagues changed his life.

Akash Patel: The reason I’m here today, I have the privilege and honor of being here today, is because of my time at Francis Tuttle. Francis Tuttle Technology Center is the place that first gave me the skills to be a community advocate. When I think about my high school years, I think about it in two halves: before I enrolled at Francis Tuttle and after. That is how transformative their instructors and programs have become for me. I enrolled in interactive media and graphic design program during my junior high school which was taught by Roberta Sams.

Roberta Sams: He is truly a charismatic young man. He always has been. And we were talking about BPA, Business Professional of America, and I always encourage all of my students to compete. And then I said, OK, when you guys win, Francis Tuttle’s going to pay for your way to go to nationals. They’ll pay for your airfare and everything. And everybody was all excited, and I looked at Akash, and it was like his face just dropped and all the color ran out. And he said, “I couldn’t go compete at nationals. I can’t do that.” And I said, why, it’ll be fun, we’ll prepare, I wouldn’t leave you hanging -- really. And he said, “I’m an illegal. I’m not documented.”

Patel: But I knew that not having a Social Security number would become a problem, eventually. So I told Roberta that I was undocumented, that I didn’t have a valid Social yet because my green card was being processed, that I felt out of place, like a foreigner, unsure whether I could even be useful or included as a student at Francis Tuttle. But she looked at me and she told me with that grin I’ll never forget, “Oh, that doesn’t matter, you don’t need a Social to learn here.” That changed everything. I can’t adequately express how profound it is when after years of dejection, fear and hopelessness, someone uplifts you so effortlessly. Finally a place I not only felt safe, but a place where I knew I could thrive -- Francis Tuttle. Roberta changed everything by showing me what was possible. She taught me how to become the best version of myself and not take no for an answer -- to be aggressive in seeking opportunities for self-improvement. Equally important I relied heavily on the technical skills she taught me when I later designed the logo, website and printed materials for Aspiring Americans. Francis Tuttle provides unique educational opportunities by allowing students to apply skills on real projects and campaigns, not just in textbooks. It also prepares us as professionals able to cultivate a working relationship with other colleagues and members of the community. High school helps prepare you for college, but CareerTech helps prepare you for life.

Roberta Sams: When you’re a teacher, it’s not just about teaching the subject matter. You’re molding that individual and what a privilege, what an honor to get to see him become the young man he’s become. Because he will make a difference; he’s going to change lives. He is a change-maker.

Patel: The following year I enrolled in the business marketing program with Candice Curry. Under Candice’s guidance, my small group and I placed sixth out of 120 teams around the world at the International Career Development Conference for our marketing campaign.

Candice Curry: Akash was a little shy, but yet very smart. And he knew that there were things out there bigger than him. And he was willing and courageous enough to have those conversations.

Patel: Candice taught me about the importance of communicating effectively with different audiences, working with different stakeholders. Good ideas and passion, she taught me, are wasted without strong delivery and investment from the community. This has been a particularly valuable skill for me as I launched Aspiring Americans in Oklahoma -- a state with, as I’m sure you know, widely varying attitudes on immigration, but with equally supportive and passionate people working underground every day. These types of opportunities were simply unparalleled. Francis Tuttle, and CareerTech more broadly, is an incubator of intellectual and civil growth. It is where I learned how to combine my passion with tangible skills. It is where I learned the value of collaboration. It is where I learned to be a professional, ready to enter a complex and technologically connected economy. It is where I learned to develop lifelong relationships with my peers and mentors. Francis Tuttle is where I learned to be a more complete citizen, before I actually became a citizen. But I want to emphasize this, there are so many others like me -- when I first came out as undocumented the very first thing someone said to me was, “But you’re not Mexican.” Indeed I’m not.

Candice Curry: At the time that he was in my class he was undocumented, but there was also three other students undocumented in that class. And the deep, rich conversations that he would have with them, the passion he had around getting education, moving forward, not quitting, taking the education we’re learning and giving back, he always was willing to give back. That’s what makes Akash different. He can take a small idea and ignite it, and make it powerful. And that’s what he did from the classroom -- looking around and seeing other students that weren’t going to be able to go to college because they didn’t have the Social Security, didn’t have parents at home pushing that. And he said, “There’s more, there’s more we can do.” And he took a very small idea at 17, 18 years old and has now grown it and really, really empowered other people to get education, to move forward, to do better for themselves.

Patel: Immigration is a global experience, right? It doesn’t just affect one group of people or our neighbors to the south. It affects all of us from every corner of the globe. These bright and dedicated students, like my sister Necia, are the key to closing gaps in our economy, especially with respect to STEM and health careers. Equally important if not more so, immigrants represent the most profound of all human endeavors -- the search of a better life for our children. And when our community and our country receive and empower these aspiring Americans to contribute their gifts and passions and become the best version of ourselves -- Isaac Newton once said, “If I am able to see a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Francis Tuttle has been such an important giant for me. And I urge you all to continue being giants for your students. Education is the ultimate equalizer. It is the guarantee that people have equal opportunities to realize their full human potential -- a guarantee that people are afforded dignity and growth of character, not just intellect, and the guarantee of hope for the future. There must be understanding of the plight and potential of immigrant students, those who are already authorized and those who are trying to adjust their status, otherwise known as “undocumented immigrants.” And when you hear about these 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, I want you to think of my family. I stand before you today as one of them and as a product of Oklahoma’s investment in me, including that of Francis Tuttle Technology Center and the University of Oklahoma. And for that I want to say a deep and sincere thank you, most especially to Roberta and Candice, who literally changed my life.

Rob: Estimates are that there are roughly 1.8 million undocumented youth living in the United States. But of those, only about 65,000 graduate from U.S. high schools each year. And of those undocumented high school graduates, only about 7 percent will go on to college.