COMMENTARY: Dominican diaspora women’s footballer to graduate from high school

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Alanna Alanna, the 18-year-old defender who suffered a severely ruptured right Achilles tendon during the Concacaf World Cup qualifying match versus Trinidad in February in Guyana, graduates from high school at the end of May. She is recovering at a progressive pace with twice-a-week grueling physical therapy sessions. For now, she is enjoying the few days left of high school such as prom night and the other social activities which mark the conclusion of those four years of high school and the beginning of adulthood.

As parents, we are looking forward to graduation as well. As she will enter the auditorium on graduation day wearing a cap and gown, to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance to say goodbye to high school, we will be elated and thrilled. At the moment when she receives her diploma, we will wonder, «How did we get here so quickly?» But during that proud moment, we will ponder on a series of bigger moments in those 18 years that became the basis of our close relationship with our second daughter. This will be a similar repeat of May 2019, when her older sister, Sari, went through the same process and our mixed emotions were also in high gear. And around us will be other parents also silently marveling at the swiftness of time and wondering if they have properly prepared their kids for their journey into the real world.

Almost all working parents including us, harbour some regret with our kids — a school violin recital or concert, an award ceremony or football match and tournament we missed. Or that time we lost our temper after a difficult, stressful, and challenging day at work. We regret the school field trips we couldn’t’ make because of work commitments and out of town conferences. And the car rides we spent on our cellphones with work related business or catching up with friends instead of talking with our children.

If we have been good role-models, our success at combining and juggling work, business, and family, will inspire our children. We had taken lots of our time and energy to do things with them. The sightseeing tours to other cities, travelling abroad in faraway places with very different cultures and ways of life. We always prioritized family meals together and outings to the parks and museums, hiking, biking, and running trails and camping trips. We even travelled overseas accompanying them to football tournaments. But, that part of our life is over which we will miss immensely.

Our hope and belief are that our hard work and sacrifices have provided a good example and firm grounding with confidence and humility and a start for an excellent work ethic and work-life balance lifestyle for Alanna and her sister. We were our children’s taxi drivers to school, mall runs, parties, football games and practices. Well, that was until they (teenagers) got their all too powerful rites of passage driver’s licenses and they told us ‘Thanks’, but our chauffeur services will no longer be needed effective immediately. In other words: «You all are fired!!» They were putting us on notice that the day will soon be here when they will set out on their life journeys. But we had already prepared ourselves for the day when both girls would say goodbye. From December 2020 to July 2021, they sheltered the Covid pandemic in Dominica living with their aunt outside of Roseau. During that period, they developed a deep appreciation and love for Dominica while doing their schoolwork virtually. Because of Alanna’s positive experiences on island, she made her high school scholarly capstone project on Dominica’s environment. The girls made You Tube videos and were quests on DBS’ popular Saturday program, ‘Connecting the dots,’ chronicling their experiences on the island and along with the challenges of virtual learning.

One of Alanna’s main sources for her school project was the highly respected and loved conservationist Mr. Athie Martin. He also made his extensive library at his guest house at Exotica cottages available for her research. Athie and Alanna discussed the current state of Dominica as the Nature Isle and the UN climate debt-for-climate-environmental swaps initiative. This arrangement allows Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Dominica, to reduce their public debt by agreeing with creditors to write off or discount their debt and instead, direct the debt service payments to fund agreed-upon climate-environmental change projects.

Athie and Alanna at Exotica eco-cottages in March 2021 But parents, who balance work, home, and business face their teens’ graduation day with similar introspection-especially the dads. More fathers today should be more involved with their children lives than in past generations, but many struggle with that aspect for a myriad of different reasons. Many regret they did not spend more time with them when it really matters- in their impressionable and vulnerable gowning up years. But on graduation day, dads relish the seemingly fleeting time with their children.

We think about the bake sales and lemonade stands on the sidewalks and at football games’ sidelines to raise funds for their Travel teams, the mad dash to Lacrosse, basketball and Football sports practices, and the parent-teacher conferences that have been so much a part of our lives. As some of those activities fell off our calendar, we realize that our daughters and us are both moving on to new adventures and adjustments.

As Alanna flips her tassel at the graduation ceremony, and later heads south to Emory University in Atlanta in mid-August, we hope she remembers not to accept what other people expect of her. We hope and pray that she hangs on to her high expectations and she explores all academic options and does what she finds rewarding. We hope over the years we ’ve impressed upon her that hard work will beat out talent, that life never goes exactly as planned, and that it’s okay to make unpopular choices if she thinks they are right for her.

Like the other parents in the DC- Maryland and Virginia (DMV) Capital region who send their children to get a first-class Catholic education at St. John’s College High school, we all walk away from graduation with something. For us, it is motivation to appreciate the sacrifice, career, and life choices we made with our girls. However, the ultimate reward will be to watch our girls pursue their passions walking in faith and with God’s guidance and to marvel at where the journey takes them.

LINK ORIGINAL: Dominica News Online