Beep, beep, beep, Carlos’s alarm sounds for his first day at Jefferson High School in Harlem, New York. As Carlos slowly departs from his bed, he hears his mother marching up the stairs. She proceeds to loudly knock on his brown, wooden door. Carlos trudges over to the door as if he was carrying a forty pound sack of potatoes. He opens the door and finds his mother with a grin that seems to stretch all the way from California to Massachusetts. She greets Carlos and tells him that breakfast is ready. Carlos quickly dresses himself and runs downstairs for breakfast. There he sees his father and his mother waiting.
Carlos and his family, the Garcia’s, just moved from Cuba to New York City. Carlos is a scrawny, darker skin sixteen year old. Mr. and Mrs. Garcia thought that immigrating to America from Cuba would create a better life for themselves. Carlos is entering tenth grade at an entirely new school in a entirely new country. Carlos is mixed with emotions. He enjoys school and learning but, he is very nervous for this new experience.
Carlos looks both of his parents in the eyes. He stands there in silence until his father tells him that everything will eventually be okay. He tells Carlos that he might struggle now, but if he keeps trying, in the end, he will succeed. He will make friends and he will settle into the new school. Carlos sits down at the table and he starts to devour his small bowl of cereal. He thinks to himself that what his father told him is false. People say that phrase all of the time and not everyone succeeds. Though, this comment is comforting to Carlos because he is so nervous for school. Carlos finishes his breakfast and bolts upstairs to brush his teeth.
After he completes all of his morning routines, it is time to board the bus. He exchanges goodbye’s with his parents and he advances past the door and finds the large, yellow bus rolling down the road like a shark chasing it’s dinner. The bus makes an abrupt stop at the Garcia family’s small apartment. Carlos climbs up the stairs of the bus and prepares himself for another long year of school.
Carlos arrives at the school and he takes a long glance at the massive school. Carlos has never seen anything like this. Carlos is familiar with very small schools because back in Cuba all of the schools were small. He follows the mass of people that are all funnelling into the doors under the large “Jefferson High School” sign. Then, Carlos looks at all of the students around him. He has never seen this many students in this small of an area.
Carlos enters the school and he immediately notices the broad hallways and the lofty ceilings. He makes his way over to his first class of the day, math. The first bell rings and the teacher starts to take attendance. Carlos tries not to make direct eye contact with any other student because he does not want an awkward situation on his first day. But, as Carlos looks around the room, he finds that other students were looking at him laughing. He does not know why. He thinks it may be his hair or his clothes. Throughout the entire day, other students are laughing at Carlos. At lunch, he sits alone. In class, he has no friend or anybody even to talk to. Carlos tries to remember what his father told him, keep trying, and success will come.
During study hall at the end of the day, a student named Daniel approaches Carlos. Carlos thinks that he is going to make fun of Carlos like every other student has today, but, Daniel actually started a conversation with Carlos. Daniel gave Carlos a feeling of reassurance. Though, during the boys talk, Carlos learned that students were laughing at him because of the color of his skin and how small and short he was. At the end of the conversation, Daniel asked if Carlos wants to hang out at the park tonight. The final bell of the day rings and Carlos and Daniel walk out of Jefferson High School together. They board the bus once again and in almost no time, they are back at home.
Carlos prepares to go to the park with Daniel by putting his athletic shorts on and his cleanest sneakers. Back in Cuba Carlos use to go to the park in order to play soccer. Carlos grabs the keys to his apartment, and then he walks out of the door. As soon as he walks out of the door, he hears the bustling city of New York. Vroom, Vroom! Carlos hears hundreds of cars flying down the street on his way to the park. The park is about a five minute walk from the Garcia’s apartment. Carlos begins his walk to the park but after he turns right onto 9th street, he sees Daniel sitting on a green bench.
Daniel stands up and strolls over to Carlos. They have their casual greetings and begin to make their way over to the park. Daniel takes Carlos over to the basketball courts. Carlos has never played basketball. He is excited to try a new sport out. In Cuba, the only sport that Carlos would consistently play was soccer but he loved to try new sports out. Daniel and Carlos stand in line for the next game and in no time at all, Carlos is in his first game of basketball.
He starts of on defense. Bending down in a position similar to a squat, he covers every area that the player he is guarding may go. He forces his opponent to pass the ball. He hears shouts from his teammates like, “Good defense!” and “Nice Job!”. This inspired Carlos to play more good defense. Throughout the entire game, he did not let his opponent score. At the end of the game, Carlos has a wide open opportunity for a layup. He drives in, shoots the ball, and after many bounces on the rim, the ball rolls in through the net. He feels very proud of himself. Basketball allows Carlos to clear his mind and not think about how he wishes he was back in Cuba or why the kids at school bully him because of his skin color and his size.
After the game, Carlos and Daniel stay at the park for another few hours until it is dark outside. In just a few hours, playing basketball becomes one of Carlos’s favorite activities to do. They both walk home together. Carlos learns that Daniel lives just one street over from the Garcia’s apartment. Carlos arrives back at home and goes to take a shower. His parents are not home yet so after his shower, he prepares himself dinner. Carlos is so tired that before his parents even get home, he decides to fall asleep.
Carlos wakes up next morning to the sound of his alarm. He performs his normal morning routine and he boards the bus. He arrives at school again and before he knows it, he is back in math class. Today, he chooses to sit next to his new friend, Daniel. Just like yesterday, Carlos is being bullied by the kids around him. After the school day, Carlos and Daniel return to the park to play basketball.
Once again, Carlos and Daniel stay at the park until it is dusk. Carlos has just as much fun as he did last night. Carlos returns home, finishes his homework, eats dinner, and he goes to bed. Carlos has trouble falling asleep tonight because he is kept up by all of the kids who are bullying him. Eventually, Carlos falls asleep but he does not want to go to school tomorrow because he is scared of getting bullied again.
Days start to roll by like a rumbling train on train tracks. Carlos is already a few months into the school year. He is still getting bullied. He has trouble falling asleep each night because he is so frustrated about how he is getting bullied. He does not understand why others would think that it is funny to satire another because of his race and his size. It seems that the more and more Carlos gets bullied, the more he goes to the park with Daniel to play basketball. His skill for the game has improved greatly. Carlos is one of the best players in the park. He wants to try out for the school team. The tryouts are in just one month. Carlos wants to make the team so bad that he stays at the park after dark in order to work on his game.
Carlos works as hard as he can for the next month so he can make the Jefferson High School basketball team. The month flies by for Carlos and tryouts are tomorrow. Carlos is extremely nervous for tryouts. He really wants to make the team because he finds playing basketball enjoyable and he thinks that if he makes the team, others will not bully him as much.
November 5, the day of the tryouts. Carlos packs his bag with shorts and his athletic shoes and travels to the school. Right after the final bell of the day rings, Carlos dashes to the locker room. He quickly dresses himself and runs out to the gym. He grabs a ball and begins to warm up. The coach blows his whistle and brings the team together.
The coach begins to explain the drills that they will be performing in order to see what players deserve a spot on the team. Carlos follows everything that the coaches say. He completes the tryout and by the end, he thinks that he did well. After the tryout, all of the participants line up and wait for the coach to tell them whether they made the team or not. Carlos is at the end of the line. When it is Carlos’s turn, he walks over to coach, and looks him in the eyes. The coach looks at him with a smile and says, congratulations, you are on the team. Carlos runs out of the gym with pure excitement.
Carlos feels that all of his hard work has paid off. He is excited to play for the school basketball team. The next day, Carlos completes a normal day at school and then he goes to practice. Basketball practice is very fun for Carlos. It allows him to clear his mind from all of the thoughts about him being bullied.
Carlos continues to go to basketball practice and school for the next couple of months. Carlos does not get any playing time for the basketball team. Because of this, other students bully him because he is on the team but he does not get any minutes. Out of any of the tactics that others have used to bully him, this one gets Carlos the most frustrated. He feels that he deserves respect because he is on the team. Even if he does not get playing time, he still deserves respect.
With just a few games left in the season, Carlos still has not played in a game. The Jefferson Wildcats are playing their rivals, the Highland Hornets next Friday. If there is any game that Carlos wants to play, it is this one. The entire school will be there to watch. Carlos can prove himself to others and he will no longer be bullied. Carlos works extra hard this week so that coach will think about playing him in the big game. He stays after practice to work on his game, runs extra sprints, and motivates his teammates more than ever. Carlos hopes that he will be able to play in the big game.
The drums start to beat, and the trumpets begin to roar. The game is about to start. The gym is entirely packed. The referee blows his whistle for the jump ball. The two tallest players on each team walk up to the center circle to jump. The Wildcats win the tip.
The first quarter has passed and the Wildcats are trailing by 12. Coach has given no sign for Carlos to go in. Halfway through the second quarter, the Wildcat’s starting point guard just went down with an injury. Coach walks up to Carlos and tells him, “Now is your time Carlos!”. Carlos nods at coach and runs in. Carlos knows that now is his time to shine.
Carlos is the point guard. This means that he is the primary ball handler. By halftime, Carlos has the led the team back to a tie game. He scored 6 points and had 3 assists. Every time Carlos scores, the students from Jefferson High School chant his name. Carlos’s mindset for the second half is try to win the game. Not impress people from his school.
The second half starts and on the first play Carlos scores a three- pointer. All of the students from Jefferson High School are loudly chanting his name. The third quarter has ended and the Wildcats have a 2 point lead. Carlos now has 13 points and 7 assists. It is time for the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter starts and everyone in the gym is one their feet. On the first play of the quarter, the Hornets score a three pointer. On the next play, the Hornets score another three pointer. Everything is falling apart for the Wildcats. Halfway through the quarter, Carlos starts to lead the team back. Bucket after bucket, with 7 seconds left, the game is tied. Carlos has led his team all the way back. The coach of the Wildcats calls a timeout. He draws up a play for Carlos to make a layup. With 7 seconds left, Carlos gets the ball, runs up the floor, displays a nasty crossover on the defender, drives in, and… 3.. 2… 1.. Carlos sends the ball up into the air… And through the net it goes! The Wildcats win! All of the students swarm around Carlos jumping up and down. For the rest of the night Carlos celebrates.
When he attends school tomorrow he is treated a little different. He enters the math room, and instead of having others laugh at him, others are congratulating him. That entire day, Carlos is not bullied once. Other students are calling Carlos the “Cuban Sensation”. Carlos finds this name quite humorous. He arrives home and he feels the best that he has felt his entire life. He finally went a day without being bullied. Not only that but he led the school basketball team to beat their rival. That night, Carlos did not have to sleep with being stressed about getting bullied tomorrow. Carlos learns an immense life lesson, just as his father told him on his first day of school, never give up, success will eventually come.