Esteniola Maitre remembers very clearly how she came to play the clarinet. Her older sister had played the piano, and in the sixth grade, Maitre — who most call Este — decided to ask her music teacher if she could also play the piano.
The answer was surprising. “Nope,” the teacher told Este. “Clarinet.”
Este was disappointed at first but was determined to make the best of what she initially thought was a bad situation. “I became one of the best players in the band,” she says.
As a result of the effort, her music teacher pushed her to attend Boston Arts Academy. Now, at the beginning of her senior year, Este, 17, has stuck with clarinet — despite opportunities to play other instruments, including the piano. “I use music as a way to cope with anything I go through,” Este said. “Today I was so stressed out and after I had music, at the end of the period I felt ten times better.”
With one look inside her planner, it is easy to see why she might feel “stressed out” some days. By the time Este starts school at 9:30 a.m., she will have been up for as many as four hours, catching up on homework or otherwise preparing for school. A typical school-day with extracurricular activities may last until 7 p.m. or later.
She is a member of Young Organizers United for the Now Generation, representative for Boston Arts Academy on the district-wide Boston Student Advisory Committee and the only student representative on the Boston School Committee. She is also now interviewing at colleges and universities around the state — all the while working toward completing her rigorous graduation requirements. By the way, she has a 4.8 grade point average,
“I know I come from a great school,” Este said.
Her education has lit a fire in her to create positive change within Boston Public Schools. She knows the value of a good education. “I know I come from a great school,” Este said. “… [But] I want everybody else to have the same opportunities I have too.”
Her experiences on the Boston School Committee have shaped her plans for the future. “I really want to do something in education or government or fuse the two together,” she explains. “ I really want to be like [U.S. Secretary of Education] Arne Duncan because I really think I can turn this around.”
For Este, education is more than a national issue. “It is just common sense that everybody has equal education,” she says. “It’s survival. It really comes down to survival. You can’t live if you aren’t educated because there are so many standards that society puts on you now; you have to meet them.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Este moved to Roxbury after her father passed away from cancer, eventually settling in Mattapan near her mother’s family. She is the second oldest of four and her youngest brother has cerebral palsy. Her mother works a night-shift preparing meals for LSG Sky Chef’s the catering company for commercial jets while her step-father drives a cab.
She says that her mom has had a hard life, but has made sure that her children have every opportunity to succeed.
She is applying to seven schools in Massachusetts; her current favorite is Williams College. She likes the serene surroundings of Williamstown, Mass. as well as the fact that their music program is for most students an extracurricular activity, which will allow her to enjoy her passion for the clarinet with less pressure.
In addition to traditional high school classes like language and pre-calculus, her senior year at Boston Arts Academy is focused on group and independent study music projects. She is taking a musical composition class where she learns classical music in a small ensemble; she is developing an original performance piece for the senior recital; as well as working on a Senior Grant project — a graduation requirement that combines her art, academic and service experiences into one final project.
She plans to put together a youth multicultural day in Mattapan. Cultural music will be the theme, but personal health will be the message.
“The reason I’m so dedicated to this project is because there is a lot of diabetes and obesity in my family.” she says. “…[Even] within my own Haitian culture, I get trapped in terms of what to eat healthy. And I know other kids feel the same thing.”
Este says that Boston Arts Academy has given her the skills she needs to succeed in college, including the most important tool for success: time management. She has learned how to be active and not burn out.
“I take the time to stop sometimes and go where there is beautiful nature,” she says before noting one of her favorite spots. “ I like to go to the Charles River and just relax.”