AWESOME KID, STARLING (Estarlyn Hiraldo), GENTLE VOICE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
Starling was born in the Dominican Republic and lived there with his mom and extended family until he was ten years old. Meanwhile his dad came to the USA to pursue the American Dream for himself and his family. It took about seven years before his dad became a naturalized citizen and then arranged for his family to join him in the USA.
It was a hard transition for Starling, who described himself as being in total shock when he arrived. He struggled to.adjust to a strange land, the cold climate, the language and the taunts from kids at school who kept making fun of his accent.
Then he was accepted into a charter school that provided him with lots of opportunities for communication skills and leadership. Little by little Starling adjusted, life improved and he started creating his own space. He began volunteering at the local library art program once or twice a week, helping these children create and express themselves through all forms of art. But it was the conversations they shared and the connections he made with them that really made an enormous impact on their lives. They shared so much with him, telling him about their families, their feelings, the problems they were facing in their lives. This mentor/mentee relationship went way beyond just art. It was a way for Starling to reach inside the heads and hearts of these children, and he knew he was making a difference.
During the summers of 2016 and 2017, Starling also worked for YDO, a community based Youth Development Organization in Lawrence, MA. providing enrichment activities and courses for over 300 low socioeconomic students. He taught basic math, music composition and production skills to Grade 3-8 students, but another part of his role was to serve as a student mentor. He was finding his niche, recognizing the strong potential of every child under his watch and providing them with the resources and support they needed to succeed.
In the fall semester of his very first year of college, Starling continued, volunteering as both a peer mentor for first year students and as an ESL (English as A Second Language) support for cafeteria aides.
And this is just the beginning for this talented youngster. As one of his professors recently said, “Starling will change the world with his indepth analysis of social issues and clear voice for social justice.”