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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Carlos Silvestre carries out his life by virtue of culture, family, friendship, and service

Spanish+teacher+Carlos+Silvestre+taking+a+selfie+with+the+students+he+took+on+the+most+recent+trip+to+the+Dominican+Republic+in+2022.
Carlos Silvestre
Spanish teacher Carlos Silvestre taking a selfie with the students he took on the most recent trip to the Dominican Republic in 2022.

When he was 15 years old, Spanish teacher Carlos Silvestre experienced his first huge cultural shock when moving to America from the Dominican Republic.

Silvestre was born and raised for the majority of his childhood in San Pedro, Dominican Republic. At 15, he moved to Corona, Queens, New York, with his father and stepmother and lived there for three years. Immediately, he noticed how drastically different the culture was in a big city compared to where he grew up.

“[Dominican] culture is very close-knit,” Silvestre explained. “Family [and friendship] is very much the center of everything. And coming to New York, such a huge place, I cried the first few days of my life [there] because it wasn’t like my small town.”

One aspect of life in New York that shocked Silvestre the most was what it was like in school. As a child, he was taught to be respectful of all superiors, whether that be his relatives, teachers, or any other adult. It was very strange and upsetting for him to see his peers treat his teachers with incredible disrespect.

For Silvestre, embracing his culture is something incredibly important. One of the biggest aspects of Dominican culture is that family is the epicenter of everything. Silvestre has a very large family—his father has 12 siblings, and his mother has five—so they were all greatly involved in his life, both growing up and today.

For the first five years of his life, Silvestre lived with his grandparents while his parents worked, which is a typical thing for Dominican families to do with their children, rather than putting them in daycare. When he was older, he lived with his father and carried out a childhood that he will forever appreciate.

“I grew up in the fields, harvesting things and going to swim in the river, doing things like that,” Silvestre said. “That, for me, was really fun, so I cherish those younger years of my life just doing fun things. As I got older, I went to the city to continue my schooling. Very early on, I did little side jobs. I used to shoe shine in the streets of my city, and that was because we were poor. So it’s not like child labor or anything like that. I [just] wanted to make some money. I also sold mangoes and stuff like that in the city. So, I did different little jobs to support my interests. I played baseball, so if I wanted to buy a new glove or something like that, I would make the money to buy that.”

[Dominican] culture is very close-knit. Family [and friendship] is very much the center of everything.”

— Carlos Silvestre

Now that he lives in Michigan, Silvestre wants to keep his culture alive within his family. With his family all being in the Dominican Republic and his wife’s family living in Argentina, they don’t have much family nearby. However, they still emphasize the importance of family and friends to their two children. During Thanksgiving, since they usually can’t travel at that time, Silvestre and his family get together with many of their friends in the area and share a large meal together.

Along with that, to immerse his children further in Hispanic culture, Silvestre and his wife talk to their kids strictly in Spanish while they are at home. Not only does this allow for them to become fluent in the language, but his kids are also constantly learning more and more about their culture.

“It’s very easy to acquire the culture when you know the language,” Silvestre said, “because if you know the language, you’re constantly acquiring things. So for us, since they were born, it was like, ‘we don’t speak English [in] this home. They need to speak Spanish.’ It’s going to be a lot more interesting for them to know their culture. So our kids are very much Dominican and Argentinian. That’s important to us.”

Not only does Silvestre want to teach his own children about Hispanic culture, but he also has a passion for preaching the importance of culture to high school students. For 17 years, he has been showing students that even as high schoolers, they are perfectly capable of learning a language. 

For Silvestre, it is easier to pick up on languages, as he is now fluent in Spanish, English, and French and even knows some Portuguese. However, just because he knows the best tactics to successfully learn a new language does not mean that is the only reason why he chose to be a Spanish teacher. He chose to teach because of the teachers he had growing up.

“When I was in New York as a newcomer to the US, my teachers had an impact on me,” Silvestre said. “They were so dedicated. And the funny thing [is that] even though these teachers most of the time were disrespected [and] mistreated, they were dedicated; it’s amazing. So, I decided to become a teacher because of them.”

Silvestre strongly believes in acts of service and giving back to the community and those who are less fortunate. So, he organizes many different service projects for his students to partake in throughout the year. Some are small, such as taking winter coats to Buchanan Elementary School. And some are much larger, like the trip to the Dominican Republic that he takes a small group of students on every other summer. Either way, Silvestre makes sure that each of his students is given an opportunity to be able to better the lives of those who may struggle.

For a while, Silvestre could not find a solid agency that gave students a trip that was geared mainly toward service projects. However, after reconnecting with an old pastor from his childhood church, he was able to organize something that could give students an amazing experience immersed in Dominican culture while allowing them to do good toward the community.

“When we go to the Dominican Republic, we’re not doing things that cost a ton of money,” Silvestre said. “We’re just painting some people’s houses, building a playground—a simple playground, sometimes with stuff we bring from here, sometimes with recyclable material—just something that would make somebody’s life just a little better. That’s why I do it. Some of my kids can afford to go to the Dominican Republic with me, and some cannot. Those [who] cannot can still contribute with a coat for somebody who might need it or somebody who may not need it but now has two for when one gets dirty. It’s just something that I want to put in my kids’ mind that service could be done at any level.”

Currently, Silvestre lives around an hour and a half away from FHC. Every day, he makes the long commute to work and back to teach in a community that adores him dearly. 

Silvestre is constantly asked why he stays—why he doesn’t just get a job closer to where he lives. It basically boils down to one thing: his love for this community and everyone in it.

“I have established relationships, not just with staff, but also families,” Silvestre said. “A lot of the kids that I have, I have had their siblings three, four, five years ago. So that is one of the things that, for me, relationships are very important. But the fact that I know the environment I work with, the kids that I’m working with, the support that families give to what I do, to teaching and to my service projects, to me, that is worth the trip. If I didn’t like the place where I work, I would definitely have looked for another place to be.”

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About the Contributor
Sofia Hargis-Acevedo, Editor-in-Chief
Sofia is a senior entering her fourth and final year writing for The Central Trend. She has grown up a writer and cannot picture herself as anything but. Along with writing, she keeps herself busy by dancing. She has been leaping across the stage since the ripe age of two, and she is currently on the FHCVDT. For Sofia, endings are bittersweet. And as she approaches her final moments walking the halls of FHC, she will try her hardest to leave her legacy within the words she writes—the words that contain her heart. Her favorite book: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller Her go-to dessert: a piping hot brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream Her favorite season: Fall, without a doubt fall Has she gotten over her fear of birds after three years? Nope!

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