For seventeen-year-old Matthew Oudkerk, America is home and Guyana is where his parents are from. Matt’s definition of home hasn’t stopped him from valuing his roots and recognizing how his parents used their culture to raise him. Matt is a rising senior at Blake High school in Montgomery county Maryland. Next year, he will be traveling to Guyana to see the country for himself. We sat down with him to hear what he had to say about his parents, his culture, and the community he’s found. Here’s what Matt has to say:
The surname Oudkerk has Dutch origins and can be translated into the words "Old Church.” In Guyana, where my parents are from, there are a lot cultures from different places mixed together.
I have never been to Guyana, but I’m going next summer with my family. I call it my parent’s home because I’ve been in the USA my whole life. From what my parents tell me and what I’ve seen and read online, Guyana is a beautiful nation that is fighting an immensely corrupt government. They’ve been fighting for things to change for quite some time. I’ve been told a lot of negative things about the country, but I’ve also heard a lot of good things too. I’ll always value Guyana though. It gave my parents an upbringing that made them the hardworking people they are. Their culture helped them raise me.
Anyone who knows my parents will tell you that they are hardworking. They are who I look up to. My mom is currently chasing a degree in cardiology and my dad is a certified chef who was executive chef with the four seasons before making the transition to sous chef. Guyanese parents are old school, though. They were strict on me growing up. They made a much clearer and more prudent habit of instilling respect at a young age.
I remember when I was a kid, I would be in stores quietly waiting for whoever I was with to finish up. I got into the habit of not speaking unless spoken to. Kids at that age are throwing tantrums, interjecting in their parents conversations, but my cut that out early.
Right now, I have a really diverse friend group and I thank the school that I go to for that. Blake high school has a lot to do with the community I’ve found. It is a good school and I feel like it’s welcoming to all ethnicities. My classes are extremely diverse.
I’m proud to be American. I’m proud of my parents and the country they come from. Their roots helped me grow. If you think about it, America is my home, but Guyana helped raise me.
- Matthew Oudkerk