Sebastian Diaz has just celebrated his second year in America.
The 9-year-old is a rising fourth-grader at Grovetown Elementary School and is enthusiastic about the country he now calls home.
"I like the freedom and I like the safeness because where I come from it's not always safe," said Sebastian, who lived in Colombia before coming to the United States. "I like the history of America and I like the people."
Sebastian is eager to learn about his new country, pushing himself to learn English in the two years that he's been here.
"I put a lot of effort into it," he said, adding that he speaks mostly English these days, rather than in his native Spanish.
As a third-grader at Grovetown Elementary School, Sebastian - who must wait three more years before applying for U.S. citizenship - wowed his peers and teachers by earning the most Accelerated Reader points for the entire school. The Accelerated Reader program quizzes pupils on the content of books they have read and assigns points based on their answers. Sebastian, the son of Russell and Katherine Gray of Martinez, earned 283 points while reading books largely written on the average fourth-grade level.
Sebastian Diaz is the top accelerated Reader in his class at Grovetown Elementary in spite of moving from Columbia two years ago. Sebastian didn't speak any English when he moved here.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Much of what Sebastian reads are mysteries such as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but he's also interested in U.S. history. "Not only is he smart and highly motivated," said Grovetown Elementary School media specialist Jane Roupe, "he is also a delight to be around. He is genuinely polite and friendly to everyone."
Sebastian's third-grade teacher, Gayle Ribas, agrees. "He is a self-motivated, self-directed learner," she said. "You give him an idea and he takes off with it. He does his own research, looks up his own information and finds his own answers."
To people who know Sebastian, it's no wonder he was named to the A/B honor roll his first two semesters at an American school and soon earned a place on the A honor roll.
"He sets his own goals and his own strategies for reaching those goals. He shows a maturity that not all students have," said Ribas, a teacher for 22 years. "He's a model for other students, but he does not gloat over that. He has overcome certain obstacles that other students haven't been presented."
Asked how she would characterize Sebastian, Ribas simply said, "Kindness. He loves to help others in the classroom. He is an extraordinarily selfless human."
Though Sebastian is eager to learn, he also likes playing board games and being outside. However, he's most excited about the end of summer and the return of another school year.
"I get bored," he said. "I'm ready to go back to school."
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