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FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS: Haitian teachers inspire Immokalee students

Haitian teachers CCPS
Posted at 9:38 PM, Mar 28, 2024

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Immokalee means "my home" in the Seminole language, and people from all over the world call it home. It also represents a melting pot of cultures including people from Haiti.

Sandra Damas is a first year teacher at Lake Trafford Elementary School, and she's from Haiti and calls Immokalee home.

"I have a duty to give back to inspire others who may be going through the same path," Damas said.

At twenty years old, Damas came to the U.S. and learned English. Then she got her GED, bachelor's degree and master's degree.

She started in Collier County Public Schools as tutor for students who speak Creole.

Damas said, "[to] See that there is someone that can understand them and the feeling of being lost being quickly removed."

It's been thirty years since Damas was in Haiti, but she's still worried about her home country while it's experiencing violence and uncertainty.

"I remain Haitian, so as every Haitian, I'm concerned," she said.

Second grade teacher Benissa Chery shares similar concerns. She moved from Haiti to the U.S. as a child.

"The kids who have a Haitian background I'm able to relate to them. Especially this age. It's the same age I came to the U.S., so they look at me as that example," Chery said.

When her students ask what's going on in Haiti, she tells them this, "Even though Haiti is going through all it's going through, this is not who the people are. This is not where we came from. We did not come from a destructive country. We came from one of the first countries of being independent."

Chery wants people to know, what's going on there doesn't reflect all Haitians.

"Know that Haitians are not what all the media's portraying us to be. We are far beyond, and if you ever met a Haitian, you know they are very kind heartened, hardworking people. We are just people trying to get through all this," Chery said.

Inspiring the next generation to not give up on their dreams,
"If you have a dream, you need to go after it," Damas said.