Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Voice of Youth Series -- #1 Janailton, The Teacher

Many kids and teenagers today aim high, perhaps even higher than they used to a few decades ago. I often wonder whether this has to do with improvements in communications, which let us hear from more people what their goals are, or if this thirst to accomplish more and more dreams is just an inexplicable mark of today's youth. An inexplicable mark that has turned this era into the freedom to dream time.

Regardless of their background, many teenagers seem more inclined to challenge norms and to fight for their aspirations. The year of 2011, in fact, has proved to be the year of protests, when youth from many countries decided to march on the streets to speak up and defend their rights. What all these teenagers have in common is eagerness to break free from everything that restrained their thoughts and speech.

Janailton, a seventeen-year old from SanharĂ³, Brazil, didn't go on the streets of his town holding political signs that accused society of neglecting his voice, but he is an eager protester. A rather calm and extremely polite protester who probably would have trouble recognizing himself as such, nonetheless still a dissident of old customs.

SanharĂ³, almost 200 kilometers from Recife, is a city in Pernambuco that relies on agribusiness to economically survive. Instead of shaping his life goals to keep his city's old agricultural standards, Janailton decided that what he needed was to learn languages. He left SanharĂ³ and moved to Campina Grande, Paraiba, to attend Federal University, where he is studying to one day become an English teacher.

Janailton is glad to live in Campina Grande because the city is bigger than where he was raised and because of the variety of festivals it holds every year. Despite having access to more opportunities, however, Janailton still is dissatisfied. "The mentality of some people here is mainly based upon getting money," he said. He explained that although his dream of learning languages isn't unusual, his goal to teach English to his community is uncommon. Janailton believes, in fact, that his idea might impact his community since people are used to foreign languages.

He wants to teach English, however, not just because he grew up admiring it. Janailton believes that learning the English language "nowadays is quite important and essential to both get a job and communicate with the globalized world." He does not, however, feel entirely encouraged by society. His dream, as he explained, is only supported by the few who also are interested in changing their communities. Despite the obstacles on his way, he prefers to remain focused on trying to benefit his community with what he learns at college.

The few supporters he mentioned are the Youth Ambassadors. "The most significant moment in my life was when I became a Youth Ambassador and traveled to the United States of America through the Youth Ambassadors Program," he explained. In January, 2011, Janailton traveled along with 34 other Brazilian High School students to represent Brazil in diplomatic meetings in the U.S. This exchange program, which is an initiative of the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, played a significant role in encouraging Janailton to continue fighting for his dreams. During his stay in the U.S., Janailton attended meetings with congressmen, gave speeches about Brazilian culture and engaged in volunteer work. The opportunity to play a diplomatic role was the last push he needed to understand that young people like him, regardless of their background, could also effectively influence society. Despite the pressure of the rural system Janailton came from, he understood that his own particular tool to make a difference was through linguistics.

Janailton strongly believes that young people need more respect. He explained that many people today still believe that teenagers are not able to positively change their communities, but he thinks that teenagers are actually very capable of assuming important roles in the present and are very interested in participating in society.

As a representative of the Brazilian youth, Janailton said that he encourages "everyone to fight for social justice, and to try to promote actions that can benefit everyone in society." Janailton encourages youth to continue fighting for their dreams, regardless of the many obstacles young people will encounter particularly coming from old norms in their communities. "Keep on trying and help as many people as you can," he said.

If you want to contact Janailton, his email is janailtonm@gmail.com and his Facebook profile is http://www.facebook.com/janailtonmick.  

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