"Be proud, work hard, and be confident" was the advice that I got from my grandfather at age 11 when I left my village and moved to Oaxaca City to be able to continue with my education. As I attended middle and high school in the city I dreamed of the day I would make it to college. I wanted to study, and I was confident that one day I would be able to receive a college diploma.
In 2008, after graduating from high school in Mexico, I was very fortunate to receive an offer to become the first international recipient of a Simply Smiles college scholarship. I was nervous, but I made one of the most important decisions of my life and moved to Connecticut to continue once again with my education. Moving to another country with a new culture and a new language was not easy, but I was still confident that one day I was going to graduate from college.
Now, after 14 years of an incredible journey with inspirational people, I am in a position where I will be graduating from Sacred Heart University next spring.
And what will be next?
Many people have asked me the same question.
Today, I'm very happy and super excited that I can finally have a formal answer to this question, which is, "I will be working for Simply Smiles."
People who have known me over the years might not be surprised by my decision because they have seen the dedication that I have to the work of Simply Smiles. And yes, I didn’t just make this decision. The truth is that ever since I received the scholarship from Simply Smiles I was thinking about the many ways that I could give back. After my first month of living in Connecticut, I decided to commit myself to the work of Simply Smiles for two years after graduating from college. However as time has passed, things have changed, and now I feel confident that I can contribute to the work of Simply Smiles for a longer period. Also, this situation will allow me to move back and forth between my two homes (Mexico and the US). Because over the last six years, I have been welcomed into many people’s lives and now, I have my CT family and I have made so many wonderful friendships all over including my friends from La Plant, SD.
After graduating from college --How can I walk away from my Nurnberger/Graves family? (and our dog, Chip!)
How could I say "goodbye" to my friends?
How could I tell my friends from La Plant that this would be my last summer with them?
I can’t even think about the ways to do so, so instead I want to think about the ways I can still be part of Simply Smiles and to continue to create beautiful relationships that will lead us to provide better opportunities for children, for families, and for their communities. In addition, I want to continue to be an example of success. I want people to see me and think, "If Gaby did it, I can do it too."
As I write this blog, I think back about the advice that my grandfather gave me years ago - to "be proud, work hard and be confident." I realized that his advice has helped me to never give up. Today, I am thankful for the life I am living because I have been very fortunate to have the love and support from my family, friends, our Simply Smiles supporters, teachers, advisors, classmates and everyone who has always been with me on this continuing journey.
Now, I look forward to my graduation day and to the days to continue with Simply Smiles!