Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rocío's Defining Moment: A New York City Experience

Posted on behalf of Rafael Mejía, Agency Director, Dominican Republic.

It was early Sunday morning. After a lot of excitement, nervousness, the hustle and bustle, trying to get Rocío's tourist visa, preparations and anxiety for the upcoming trip, since she first heard of her selection, the day had finally arrived. Sunday, August 10, 2008. Rocío's mom, little brother, and grandfather met me at the airport filled with mixed emotions.

Pride, happiness, worries and, most of all, gratitude that because of Children International and generous sponsors, their dream had come true.

I felt honored to have escorted Rocío throughout the entire process of the airport protocol and experience many firsts. First airplane ride. First immigration process. Rocío seemed very poised throughout the plane ride trying to absorb every detail – every millimeter of everything that was going on. But, deep inside, she was shaking with excitement, shocked, numbed almost like walking through a dream – literally. She could not believe this was happening to her!

Upon arriving to JFK International airport in New York City and answering some questions from the U.S. Immigration Officer, we finally got out, grabbed our suitcases and met a nice driver who took our luggage and escorted us to the parking lot and told us to wait for him while he got the car. Smiling and shocked, throughout the entire ride towards the hotel, she was in awe looking at all the tall buildings of the Manhattan skyline and trying to figure out which one was the Empire State Building.

She took pictures and said to me that this trip was a true inspiration and a high point in her life. Now more than ever, she will strive even harder, study and graduate from college so that this trip wouldn't be the first and last one.

Nighttime arrived and we had dinner with friends and colleagues from India and Kansas City. After dinner, I offered to take them for a walk downtown to Times Square!

Lights, signs, hot dog vendors, typical yellow cabs and with people all over the place, Rocío stayed poised, but could not take enough pictures. At every corner, she took pictures. Her face was bright as all the New York night lights.

Rocío was trying to capture and freeze in time every image and piece of NYC in order to take back home and share with her family and friends this wonderful experience – a very, very defining and enriching moment!

Learn more about Rocío and the other delegates on our International Youth Day page.

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