How We Met: I was a student teacher at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home School when Gabriel and his business partner, Kirk, came to the school to run programming with my students. Gabriel co-founded a non-profit organization, Speak It Forward Inc., which works with youth who are at-risk and vulnerable using writing, poetry and performance as a way to share and cope with life’s obstacles.
When Speak It Forward, Inc. started to work with my students it spiked my interest. My students were showing social emotional growth, sharing vulnerabilities and building interpersonal relationships like I’ve never seen before! As a student teacher, I approached Gabriel & Kirk expressing my eagerness to get involved in such a movement.
Long story short, I became a volunteer for the organization and started working with them across the state of Michigan with youth from all walks of life. Gabriel and I began to work on projects together for our students and naturally, conversation emerged.
After months of getting to know each other, he finally asked me out on our first date! After a night of laughs and romance, the first kiss took place and it was everything any girl could have imagined. We have been together ever since that first night!
how they asked: While celebrating our 1 year anniversary Gabriel gave me the surprise of a lifetime!
We had many talks during the first year of our relationship about getting engaged and we both REALLY wanted our families to be a part of our special day. This was an obstacle for us because my family lives in California & New Jersey, and Gabriel’s family lives in New York City (we live in between them in Michigan). We weren’t sure when the “perfect” time would be when our immediate families would be together… summer, holidays, etc.
We agreed on waiting until the holiday season so at least we could do some traveling to share the news. As an eager, soon-to-be fiance, I was waiting as patiently as I possibly could while not expecting any surprises (the holidays were still 9 months away!!!)
For our anniversary, Gabriel sent me and one of my best girl friends to indulge in a spa day: massages, pedicures, manicures, the whole package! I had no idea she was in on the surprise. While we were out enjoying being pampered, many conversations about my ever-so-patient anticipation came about. After returning from our relaxing outing Gabriel said he was taking me out to our most favorite local pizzerias for dinner.
He suggested that we get dressed up for the fun of it and expecting that we’d at least take a picture of the 1 year anniversary dinner date. (Little did I know, that my thoughtful, almost fiance, was making sure I felt beautiful and confident for one of the most momentous nights of my life) When we arrived at Martini’s Pizza, it was jam packed! Gabriel had previously arranged for the hostess to tell us that there were no tables available on the main floor, but there was seating ready for us upstairs in the private room.
I wasn’t expecting anything yet because we go to this restaurant so often that they always treat us like family! When we got upstairs I turn the corner to see the room filled with 50 of our closest friends and family who all screamed, SURPRISE! I was so shocked that I STILL didn’t think anything aside from, “Oh, wow! A surprise anniversary party!”
All the sudden a camera crew surrounded us and Gabriel starts speaking; I am overwhelmed with emotion. I didn’t even notice that he flew in my entire immediate family and his family from across the country! (Note: You’ll see my reaction in the video!) After screaming and hugging my family, Gabriel pulled me aside and began his proposal…
To be honest, I probably didn’t realize this was actually THE proposal until about half way through his poem. Incase you haven’t picked up on it yet from all his romantic antics, my now-husband is a poet. No, seriously, he makes a living as a full-time poet and keynote speaker. Throughout our dating history, I always wondered how I could be with a poet and never have a poem written just for me.
Well, it was worth the wait! Being serenaded with the most amazing poem for my surprise proposal was the ultimate dream come true! If you don’t believe it was my dream come true, just wait and watch my reaction to the big question!
Photography: Melanie Reyes