His eyes tell a story: The tale of Sr. Silvestre’s Past

His eyes tell a story: The tale of Sr. Silvestre's Past

There is a certain twinkle in Carlos Silvestre’s eyes, one that instantly tattle tales on his rich past. Just by looking at him, you can tell that he has a story to tell. And all you want to do is plop down beside him with a cup of coffee and listen.

Silvestre grew among three sisters in the heart of Dominican Republic. His family lived in a small one-story house that while not big, housed his family comfortable. It seemed to be just right for the family, and it allowed room for Silvestre and his siblings to grow up among the winding hallways that seemed to carry the laughter from the Silvestre kids as they played and indulged in numerous games of hide and go seek. Although he admits that he grew up in a “poor country” with a “poor family,” he refuses to call the life he lived challenging, instead coming to the consensus that he simply grew accustomed to the middle to lower class lifestyle he lived. However, Silvestre reveals the harsh realities of such a lifestyle in the Dominican Republic.

“The struggles of a middle to lower class family there are not the same as here,” Silvestre admits.  “You are essentially on your own and there is absolutely no one to help when you are in need of a government subsidy or something like that.  That is why it took a lot of work and effort on the part of my family to build a house and make sure we had somewhere to live.”

At the age of 15, Silvestre’s parents decided to pack up their belongings and leave the soil of their native land. They left everything they had ever known for the pursuit of the American Dream, including the rich language of their country and the warmth that seemed to radiate from its borders. Coming from a small and close country where people are very close made the coldness that seems to exist within America amplified. Silvestre immediately took notice of the distance and politically correctness that seems to steer people away from any opportunity of having an open relationship. Where he was originally accustomed to the closeness between everyone in his native country, he directly observed the distance between most people in the United States. He admits it was rather difficult for him to have people call it “weird” when he simply tapped them on the shoulder to ask them a question or say hello. He found that normal human contact was simply morphed into something it shouldn’t be and thought of as going against the social norm.

Silvestre and his parents left their homeland for the bustling streets of New York City. The constant buzz and chatter that seemed to reverberate throughout the city was a shock for Silvestre. Coming from a rather simple lifestyle, he was able to realize the size of everything. Everything seemed bigger in New York and even more complex.

Silvestre notes that process getting to the United States was actually significantly easier than it was actually residing in it. His father had obtained a work visa, which allowed his entire family to have a companion visit. His sisters and his mother made the trek to the Big Apple and everything seemed to be fine until the process of getting their green card came into play. Silvestre simply puts it that everything suddenly got “extremely complicated.” The family was interviewed by a lady who obviously had some sort of resentment or hatred against immigrants. This malice resulted in the family’s documents being intentionally “lost” and in the family having to do through a number of different steps to ensure their residence. Due to this animosity that was exposed to the family, they were forced to fight a battle. They had to fight for a place in the US and by doing so were ultimately made to seem that they were simply “visiting” in a place that was supposed to feel like home.

“We felt like we were in limbo” Silvestre said. “We didn’t know what we were going to do or what was going to happen. It got to the point where even five years after we got here, we still didn’t have all the documents in place. It was extremely frustrating.”

Suddenly, a burst of luck came to the Silvestres.They were able to get into contact with an immigration lawyer who was well versed on situations like that of which the family was forced to endure, and they were able to solve the problem and obtain the Green Card they had been looking to get several years ago. A sense of relief washed over the family as they were finally able to take a deep breath and relish in the fact that they were finally home.

At the age of 20, Silvestre traded in the bustling city of New York to the blue waters of Lake Michigan to attend Andrews University and Aquinas College. It was there among the throng of students that he was able to put the world into perspective and was able to unearth his passion for traveling. Being given the opportunity to hear from his professors and other students who were able to taste bits and pieces of the world made Silvestre hungry for the same adventure and made him want to experience it for himself. This interest in traveling not only shaped his passport, but also led him into his initial major: international business. This major allowed him to educate himself on all the crevices and nooks of the world and helped satisfy his appetite for traveling.

Silvestre remarks on the bubble stereotype that Forest Hills has been associated with. He makes the comment that traveling may be the solution we all been so desperately searching for in terms of the negative connotation. Silvestre takes notice of the many parents who want their children to have experiences and allow them to go on mission trips in order to get a sense of the big world that we reside in. He conveys with a sense of optimism that he believes more kids will get involved with the different parts of the world and this “sheltered” energy will turn over. Silvestre believes that eventually, the upcoming generations of kids will be more exposed to a culture of closeness and this “bubble” stereotype will disintegrate.

Silvestre has been able to use this hope for a generation based on worldliness and experience in order to impact his students and educate them about the richness of travels and cultures, specifically that of the diverse Hispanic culture.

“Not only has he taught me the language, but he’s taught me about the culture,” junior, Zoe Stockreef said. “He has also made me not only appreciate but enjoy Spanish. He loves everyone of his students and his passion for his work shows.”

Senior Monica Olmstead, a former student of Silvestre’s, also spoke on his dedication for teaching and how his zeal motivated her.

“I was really bad at it [Spanish] so I only ended up taking two years,” Olmstead said, “ But, the time I did take learning it were amazing with Mr. Silvestre. You could just tell that he loved teaching it, which made me ten times more excited to learn about it.”

Silvestre uses his history and the histories of others who know more than just American soil to educate his students. Throughout his years within the wall of FHC, he has continuously made the point that there is more to teaching than simply standing in front of the white board and lecturing about verb conjugation. There is more to the Hispanic culture than just vocab words and readings out of the textbook; it is a culture of learning that thrives off of experiences.

His eyes tell a story and he’s eager to retell it to all the students that enter room 132 in hopes of indulging in a rich culture full of a beautiful language and people with beautiful hearts.

“I love to share,” Silvestre said. “I love to talk to my students and motivate them to at one point in their lives, at the end of their high school career or in college, to just explore our world, because it is beautiful.”