My mother took the ultimate leap of faith when she decided to pack her things and take off on a flight headed to New York City from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic with her 3-year-old son. She did this for the same reason thousands of parents leave their homes and loved ones behind; to expose her child to the life-changing opportunities this country has to offer. One of those opportunities was for me to receive a Catholic school education.
Even though my mom wanted the best education possible for me, a Catholic private school education seemed financially out of reach for her as a single parent. I would just have to continue my education through the free public school system. Later, I was given the opportunity to attend La Salle Academy thanks to the donors who covered a significant amount of my tuition, making my Catholic school education affordable for my hard-working single mom. As soon as we got the news that I was accepted to La Salle Academy with a scholarship, my mom called our relatives back in the Dominican Republic to share the excitement! What an incredible opportunity for a young man.
I, on the other hand, felt a big mix of emotions. At the time, part of me did not want to attend La Salle because I didn’t think I would fit in. I envisioned a group of incredibly intelligent students wearing good looking uniforms, made up of crisp white shirts and ties, and shiny dress shoes. I also pictured the long list of rules I would have to follow, and how I might be punished in detention. As a kid who attended a rowdy public middle school with a less than ideal reputation, I didn’t feel like I would fit in at La Salle. I felt as though I wouldn’t belong. I was so overcome with nerves that I cried to my mother to say I didn’t want to go to La Salle, but my mom knew what was best for me and she would not let me miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity that would set her son up for success.
I gave La Salle Academy a shot and to my surprise, my first year went better than expected. I liked the fact that the school was very diverse, and a lot of the students came from similar backgrounds as me, so I didn’t feel alone. There were many clubs and activities for the freshmen and overall, the teachers, faculty and staff were very attentive and caring towards the incoming class, guiding us every step of the way. It quickly began to feel like a second home.
Despite doing well for my first three years, my senior year turned out to be the worst for multiple reasons. A lot of it had to do with my attitude and approach toward school that year. I had the ‘I’ve got it all figured out’ attitude and quite frankly, I did not. I had a severe case of Senioritis – I was arriving to school late every other day and if I wasn’t sleeping in the back of the classroom while my math teacher taught trigonometry, then I was daydreaming or staring at the clock counting down the minutes, waiting for the bell to ring so that I could go to baseball practice. Sadly, this was my routine in every class. I had received various college acceptances, but none of them were from the schools I hoped to attend due to my grades, and this just added to my lack of motivation.
Consequently, this poor attitude landed me in summer school right before my first semester of college. The level of embarrassment and disappointment I felt was inexplicable and it all stemmed from the fact that I couldn’t blame anyone but myself. I had let my mother down, along with all the other individuals in my life that cared for me and wished me nothing but success.
I had to attend summer school at a public high school and the difference between La Salle Academy’s atmosphere and the public high school’s undesirable environment made me appreciate La Salle so much more. I now realize that La Salle was a place that catalyzed the production of independent, successful and intelligent young men. Although senior year was terrible for me, the values, discipline and skills that I developed during my four years at La Salle allowed me to get through summer school easily.
This same foundation also allowed me to successfully obtain a 3.5 GPA in my first year of college. I spent my first two years exploring different fields and careers until the moment came when I knew exactly what career path I wanted to pursue. I developed an interest in science and health care to the point where I now aspire to become a physician-scientist who will come up with answers to some of biology’s unsolved problems and carry out lifesaving treatments to individuals in need. I am proud to say that this past May I graduated with honors from CUNY College of Staten Island, earning myself a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a concentration in Health Sciences and a minor in Chemistry, all while working as an EMT on the weekends. This summer I interned at Columbia University Medical Center where I worked under the supervision of a pediatric infectious diseases doctor, investigating ways to prevent and combat bacterial infections in the lungs. I will begin preparing for the medical school entrance exam this fall and my application process will start next summer.
If it weren’t for the excellent education and discipline I received at La Salle Academy, I don’t think I would have been prepared to make the wise choices that got me to where I am today. La Salle taught me responsibility, persistence and diligence. These are the same principles that helped get me through summer school and college, and I am confident they will get me through every stage of my life. For that, I would like to give special thanks to all the teachers and administrators who taught and guided me on my journey through La Salle Academy. My classmates and I are proof that the work being done at La Salle is truly meaningful and impactful to the lives of young men. There is no other school I would have rather attended.
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