In a world full of opportunities, and a town with so many people privileged to take full advantage of them, sometimes we forget that not everyone has it so easy. Not everyone comes from a background of even knowing what it takes to get into college, how to apply and how to afford it.
This summer, the Family Learning Center ran its third annual Ignite Your Potential summer program, designed to reach high school students of low socioeconomic status who are the first in their families to apply for college. Seniors selected their colleges of choice and completed the application materials, while younger students practiced writing personal statements and crafted educational plans that will get, or keep, them on track to college.
These students emerge through a gauntlet of challenges that face many high school students in America — alcohol and drugs, teen pregnancy, rising costs of higher education and increasing competition for scholarships and grants.
In the next few weeks, Boulder Weekly will be looking into the challenges that face these students and the outlook for their futures as they shoot for the stars.
We open this series by allowing them to introduce themselves in their own words. Below are excerpts from the essays and personal statements written by this summer’s Ignite Your Potential students.
Angeles, senior, aspiring medical student
As I entered the apartment disillusioned my mother asked “Que tienes Angeles?” “What’s wrong Angeles?” With tears in my eyes I responded “Nada ama simple mente me dijeron que no podía trabajar.” “Nothing mom they just told me that I couldn’t work.”
“I’m sorry you’re not eligible……..”
These words have been stuck in my mind since I was 15 years old. Being an undocumented student and also coming from a family that occupies the “undocumented status” is hard. As a result, my family has always struggled with finances, finding and maintaining a secure place to live, and especially to work.
Jesse, senior, aspiring translator/language studies student
“Nunca dices no puedes hacer algo” (Never say you can’t do something) Coming from a one parent, low-income household, I learned to appreciate what I have. There were times, when I thought I couldn’t do something, and my mother reassured me. All my life, I worked twice as hard to not become another “societal statistic”. To not be another person working at McDonalds all my life, or to not to be another person on welfare. My faith in myself, and the support from my family, are the best motivation for me.
Jasmine, freshman, aspiring civil rights lawyer
Having a nice car was all that I ever wanted when I was little. Before going to bed, I would close my eyes tightly and pray for a car that wouldn’t break down. It wasn’t that my family didn’t own cars; it was just that every car we bought would fall apart within a few months. I also remember feeling embarrassed to go to school since all my other friends had nice cars like shiny BMWs, exclusive Lexus models, and mighty Landrovers. My old gas gosling, Suburban could not compete. I vividly recall my face getting hot with anxiety, as my mom arrived at Summit Middle School. I was convinced that having a broken car defined who I was.
Carolyn, freshman, aspiring community college student
I have always had a feeling of being lost throughout my life. There are two different meanings of “lost” that define me. The first is my need to escape from reality. The second definition of ‘lost,” is the feeling of confronting the unknown. I feel lost by knowing only one side of my cultural heritage, which is Mexican-American. I want to find the other half of myself; the Native American side of me that I do not know.
Joshua, senior, aspiring zoologist
Joshua’s passion for the science of creatures with fur, scales, and feathers was first sparked when he noticed a stuffed animal with a hose for a nose at the age of five. During his youth, he fascinated classmates and surprised teachers with his expansive knowledge of the planet’s strongest, fastest, and largest monsters. While his peers were entrenched in sports and fantasy, Joshua was busy contemplating the complexities of arthropods skeletons, mapping the external regions of their cold-blooded bodies. Joshua is a self-made animal enthusiast.
Chelo, senior, aspiring personal athletic trainer
“As I held you in the incubator, I could see and feel you take each breath. I knew you were fighting to stay alive and I wanted to help you through every minute of it.” This is what my father saw and felt when I was first born. There is no doubt that I am fighter: I fought for my life since day one and I am still here today. From the very beginning of my life, I was exposed to the vulnerability of my existence. I was a premature baby, born a month to early. With blood in my lungs, on the brink of death, I survived. Without a doubt, I made it because I am a progressor.
Autumn, senior, aspiring acting/theater student
The unforgettable moment I set foot on Mr. Billy’s stage; the wobble that came with every step resulting from the pegs holding it up. My lungs filled with the smell of dusk from the old bookcases and paint fumes from students working the New York City set. The improvised stage curtains were held up with poles, sticking out like holding up a child’s homemade tent. … This stage is where it all happened for me; the beginnings of finding myself through acting.
Rosa, junior, aspiring accounting student
Aesthetically, images do not always capture the story words may tell. As a young Mexican woman, living in a predominantly white environment, I have become accustomed to adapting to changing cultural environments. I constantly experience the currents of multicultural exposure; as a child, language was an immense barrier. I only spoke Spanish up until first grade. I took offense when someone noticed that I was not a native English speaker, and I isolated myself through a cultural barrier. To assimilate into American culture, I blocked out my cultural roots only to discover later how integral they are to my identity.
Juliet, freshman, aspiring adoption lawyer
“We are moving to America” stated my adoptive mother with a hopeful voice. By the time I was fourteen years old, I had lived in four different countries across Africa: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Uganda, and I had to flee the genocide in Rwanda. In 2004, when I moved from Uganda to Rwanda, my mother died a Tuberculosis infection leaving me, an uprooted orphan at the age of four.
“There are people, who want to adopt you.” When I was first told that I am moving to America, I did not want to leave Africa. At the age of six, I was convinced that my adoptive family would be British and I was concerned that they would eat me. Fortunately, I was proven wrong.
Becoming an adoptive lawyer, I want to focus my career to help out families in Africa. I do not like seeing children living a life they did not choose to live. I would not want anyone to experience the life of an orphan that I did.