ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Kamaal Majeed is a junior at Waltham High School in Massachusetts and wrote his essay in his English class last year. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON: Kamaal Majeed loves studying language. He intends to use his knowledge to help people understand one another better. And as with most of his personal decisions, he is not likely to be knocked off course by the judgments or expectations of others - as you'll hear in his essay for This I Believe.
KAMAAL MAJEED: On my first day of high school going into math class, two of my classmates pointed and laughed at me. I initially thought my fly was open or that something was stuck in my teeth. But as I took my seat, I heard one of the students whisper, "Why is a black person taking honors?" So my fly wasn't open. An honors-level class had simply been joined by a student whose skin was an unsettling shade of brown.
SIEGEL: I believe in being myself. I believe that I - not any stereotype - should define who I am and what actions I take in life. In high school, popularity often depends on your willingness to follow trends. And I've been told that it doesn't get much easier going into adulthood. But the only other option is to sacrifice my individuality for the satisfaction and approval of others. Sure, this can be appealing - since choosing to keep my self-respect intact has made me unpopular and disliked at times with no end to that in sight. But others' being content with me is not nearly as important as my being content with myself.
ALLISON: For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.
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