I’m not ashamed to admit that I fell into the stereotype of a student that previously never understood the importance of a strong education and performed poorly in school because of this indifference. Still, I held both the dream of being the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university and the fear that I would never reach that dream.
I realized that I needed to turn things around when I joined OneGoal and learned how large the gap was in college graduation between high-income and low-income communities. It suddenly dawned on me that in feeling apathetic about my education, I was being a participant in my own oppression.
It was clear to me that I needed to improve my academics in order to get into a good college. I felt like I had something to prove because I carried the perception that I was a constant underachiever. I changed my focus and worked incredibly hard. I’m proud to now say that I went from failing classes my freshman year to taking four AP classes senior year and I’m determined to get the best education I can.
I raised my GPA from a 2.4 freshman year to 3.2 sophomore year! Being part of OneGoal and taking these advanced classes didn’t only improve my GPA, they exposed me to many different topics that I’m now deeply passionate about because of how they affect life around me.
It absolutely blows my mind the financial investments being put into programs, like mass incarceration, that I see disproportionately affect my community. It’s unreal. Meanwhile, the cost of higher education is so high that too many people don’t see it as a realistic option for changing their lives. But I know that if I want to change these types of injustices, then I have to really understand them, which is why I’m planning on studying both politics and economics when I go to college next year.
Through my classes I’m learning how far-reaching injustices across this nation are, but I never needed a book to tell me that because I’ve experienced it myself. Even this year, I attended an economics and leadership program at a prestigious university with other high school students from all around the United States. I wasn’t surprised when I saw I was one of just a few students of color in the program, but I was still shocked by the discrimination and isolation I felt from my Caucasian peers.
From the moment that I opened my mouth to speak and they heard my accent, a reflection of my Latina and New York roots, I could feel them forming opinions about my intelligence, my belonging in the program, and my worth. It felt awful, so when I returned to school I was determined to create an empowerment group, where students like myself could talk about issues of daily discrimination, healthy relationships and other topics that affect us every day. It’s a way for us to share experiences, while also preparing us for the different challenges that we might face in college and the world.
I also began hosting voter registration drives and talking to my friends about the importance in voting. I want people to know that they’re not alone and that they have the power to advocate for themselves and change things.
I hope to leave New York when I go to college so that I can experience a different part of the country. After my experience in the leadership program, I know that college life will bring up challenges other than academics, but I feel prepared to take them on. OneGoal helped awaken me from my own personal indifference in school. Combining this determination with a college degree will set me up to tackle the larger, national problems that people seem so apathetic to.
I want this country to become a place where I see more of my classmates with a pathway to an education rather than incarceration through systematic reforms.