The following article was writen by Ian Stewart and David Fletcher, students at , who were inspired following a visit from Terry Lombardi last week.
Terry Lombardi, originally Maria-Teresa Gomez, visited Alta Alternative Education at the Pyne Center on Friday, Dec. 2. A strong-willed and caring survivor from the conflict in Cuba, Lombardi brought insight to many pertinent issues such as how to maintain a positive and healthy relationship and how to be a leader and not a follower.
She also answered many questions that involved her childhood escape from Cuba and the life that she and her brother lived throughout stressful years in foster care.
“I’m in it by myself,” Lombardi said, reminiscing of the years she spent living in the projects. “I had to go out and find my own job when no one else wanted to.”
Lombardi took it upon herself to find work, and that search led her to a tobacco company in Glastonbury. This job helped her afford the bare minimum, which resulted in being just clothes for school. She took initiative as a school-age child to find a job and to volunteer for certain tasks when no one else would.
“If no one else is going to do it,” she said, “then I will.” This led her to often find herself in a leadership position with other young girls following her example.
What makes someone a leader and what makes one a follower?
Certain situations call for the individual to decide whether or not they lead or follow. High school is a great way to see that this principle is true. Imagine you’re a teen that’s hanging out with your friends after school, and one of them pulls out a drug and passes it around. You’ve heard that this drug is “all the rage”, but do you really want to follow a poor choice that someone else is making or do you want to stand up for yourself and say no? That’s one of those key situations when you have to decide for yourself if you want to be a leader or a follower.
“When I was growing up, they’d make us girls fight each other for a sort of ‘rite of initiation.’ I stood up to them and said ‘No, I’m not going to fight’,” Lombardi said about the pressure to be a leader or a follower when she was growing up around the other kids in the project that she lived in. “A few other girls stood up for themselves and followed my example, and none of us fought.”
Lombardi is a strong advocate for Alta and alternative learning programs. She said she wishes that schools like Alta were available back when she was in school because she lost many of her friends that would have benefitted from a family-oriented environment. There were no support systems for high school students, and no one wanted the people who were different to be around them.
“There should be alternatives for every aspect of life,” says Mrs. Lombardi. She thinks that everyone should be able to do a certain thing, be it one way or another.
The most amazing part of Mrs. Lombardi’s presentation on Friday was when Kuba Kasinski, a senior at Alta, asked “What was the one toy that you brought with you when you left Cuba? Do you still have it today?”
Lombardi hoisted her duffel bag into her lap and pulled out a life-size baby doll. She introduced him as “Pepito”, and she revealed that she carries him around with her everywhere she goes. She said “Pepito” was maliciously taken apart, searched for jewels and valuables and was tough to put back together.