Carel Voltaire is quick to laugh, like someone rejoicing that a weighty burden has been lifted from his shoulders. And that is undoubtedly how he feels as he prepares to graduate from John D. O’Bryant High School, one of Boston’s three exam schools.
“My junior year was especially difficult,” he said. “I pulled many all nighters. Coffee was a good friend of mine.”
The effort was worthwhile. Carel was accepted to Boston University, Tufts, Carnegie Mellon, Syracuse, Worcester Polytech and UMass/Amherst. He has decided to go to Tufts. “I was attracted to the civil engineering program at Tufts,” he explained.
Carel grew up in Haiti where his father was a civil engineer for a German firm. “I used to go to work with my dad, and it was interesting to watch him work with architects on construction projects. That is what I would like to do,” he said.
When his family moved to Boston, Carel was 11 years old and could not speak English. He was eager to learn the language and be able to communicate with others. “I learned the language from special English language videos from the library,” he disclosed. The videos and watching television programs brought him up to grade level in English at a rapid pace.
Carel was not an especially good student at first, but he got serious when his father died. “My father died of liver cancer just before my junior year. I knew I had to step up and get serious,” he claimed. “I knew I had to be a good role model for my younger brothers who are now 14 and 8 years old.”
He took three advanced placement courses in his junior year and earned the highest possible score in two of them and a 2 in the English course. While he believes that his grasp of English is adequate, his English as a Second Language status was not enough to earn him a high grade in an English AP course. He continued this intensity in his senior year with four AP courses. The grades are as of yet unknown.
“The workload in my senior year was even greater than the year before, but I was so used to it that the work seemed easier,” said Carel, “but I am glad it’s over.”
According to Carel, the anxiety about college was relieved by counseling he received at Bottom Line, a program to help qualified students get accepted to college and ultimately to graduate. “I was worried about getting accepted into the program, and I was very glad I did,” he stated.
Despite his heavy academic load, Carel worked as a volunteer tutor for elementary school students in a program located in Codman Square. “It felt good to be able to help others,” Carel claimed. “Helping the kids made me forget about my own school work.” However, sports never provided a similar relief. He spent little time in sports and his athletic efforts were not so successful. “I tried football and seriously sprained my ankle. Swimming and long distance running were only a little better,” explained Carel. “I wasn’t good at any sport,” he concedes.
In his 18 years, Carel has acquired a mature attitude. He believes that “everything you do will have an impact,” and for this reason he always tries to meet his obligations and is always on time. He has always reached out to participate in programs that will help him. For six weeks this summer he will be enrolled in the BEST program at Tufts. Carel asserts, “I have been given an awesome opportunity to go to Tufts and I won’t waste it.”
Carel plans with his skills developed at Tufts to help rebuild Haiti.