The school helped me to explore who I am as a young leader vs. who I would like to become.
At 15 years old I made the decision to leave my home country of Guyana and come to the United States to live with my father, whom I barely knew. I made this decision because having educational and career opportunities is important to me. In Guyana, unemployment is high and access to jobs is mostly limited by family connections. One can work hard in school and be a great student, and still not be able to build a career. In the U.S. the situation is entirely different.
Once in the U.S., I entered 10th grade at Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies (BCS), a public “magnet” high school. BCS’s diverse, welcoming community engaged me in a way that completely changed my work ethic. This is an Outward Bound expeditionary learning school that focuses on teaching students both in and out of the classroom. In addition to this, rather than primarily practicing test taking skills, part of the school’s curriculum is to write PBATs in place of the regent examinations. These are essentially really long papers that students have to write and present to a panel for a grade in the core classes. With this, the teachers at this institution challenged all of my weaknesses such as public speaking, writing, socializing etc.
I entered BCS with approximately a 2.0 GPA and by the end of the first school year I managed to improve that to 4.0, and maintain that through the remaining two years of high school. I even managed to graduate as the class Valedictorian. The school helped me to explore who I am as a young leader vs. who I would like to become.
Navigating the College Process
Being the first in your family to finish college is powerful. Everyone’s story has ups and downs, what matters is how you end yours.
I know that the experiences I’ve shared in this essay represent only some of the hardships first-generation college students face. One piece of advice I would give to my fellow first-gen students, that has helped me through the years, is to embrace your sacrifices and use them as motivation as you move forward. Being the first in your family to finish college is powerful. Everyone’s story has ups and downs, what matters is how you end yours.