Dear Sabas,

The day you graduated high school, you told me that I changed your life. Now, it’s time for me to tell you  what I couldn’t tell you then: you’ve changed mine.

You are brilliant! I’ve still never lost as badly in chess to anyone but you. We also endured some challenges together. Sometimes it felt like we had to talk for an hour just to get through a small piece of homework. I prodded and cajoled; you fell asleep on your textbook and asked me, “why a Princeton graduate like me would bother tutoring a student like you.”

I believed in you and knew you could pass that Geometry class you needed to graduate. Eventually, you believed it too. I watched as you won a $5,000 Sun Life Rising Star scholarship and walked across the stage on graduation. Those were among the proudest moments of my life.

They still are.

After our time together, I went on to take a government job in D.C. and then began law school at Harvard. You started college, then joined City Year as an AmeriCorps member (I was thrilled!). Eventually, we lost touch. But I never forgot you, or the satisfaction I felt when I and the other members of my team – Bekah, Carrie, Chris, Kyle, Stephanie, watched you graduate.

I started to miss my time in the classroom. I decided to go back and teach 12th grade math. I am in my first year at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C. and I have the privilege of teaching 140 students who are just as inspiring as you, Sabas. All of them are bright, capable students who’ve faced struggles and deserve my support and encouragement. Sometimes the challenge is overwhelming. I’m not sure I can reach all of them in the way that I did with you, but I think about the way that we worked together through months of geometry and I know that they, too, can master even the most advanced high-school math.

I’m going to try as hard as I can to help them walk across the same stage that you did. I’ll be thinking of you the whole way. Thank you, Sabas. I can’t adequately tell you how much working with you has meant to me, but I hope this is a start.


Rob Barnett

12th Grade Math Teacher

Eastern Senior High School (Washington, DC)

City Year Seattle ’10


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