I come from a place where I was not given many handouts to support myself during some of the toughest years of my life. I lost my mother rather early in life; my dad maintained a solid upbringing for me, but took a left turn around 9th grade. My family troubles became really difficult and I was metaphorically thrown into the fire of real life. I incurred many responsibilities beyond what peers my age were experiencing. However, I was lucky to have been chosen to go to middle and high school where faculty never gave up on their students - even if the kids had given up on themselves. The school lived by the motto "Work Hard; Be Nice," which I pride myself on even after being nearly five years removed from the program. As long as I work as diligently as I can and respect those that I work alongside in the process, I have faith that life will work out in my favor.
Since I developed the need to work for what I wanted at an age earlier than most, I seldom felt inclined to ask for help, even if it may have been detrimental to my well-being. Of course people want to be independent and not feel like they need others for assistance, but there are times when it is necessary. I applied for my first post-graduation job at the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh. The Heinz Fellowship Program, is a great opportunity for change agents to examine the flaws in urban education and determine what measures can be put in place to eliminate them. With this opportunity, I would be working hands-on as well as conducting research in order to make a lasting contribution to the program. I would be gaining connections to various resources that will not only help me during my time at the fellowship, but even later on in life. I have plans of creating my own social media network system specifically designed for grade-school students to have connections to the college and professional atmosphere much earlier than the norm. Now that I have just left the college experience and am heading into the professional world, it would be great for me to receive immediate experience with the youth.
My biggest obstacle in making it to Pittsburgh and being successful there is my transition from college to the real world. While I did work in college, I was also fortunate to receive financial assistance. Today, I do not have all of the same luxuries. Not only will I be worried about food and shelter - travel costs to get somewhere 7 hours away from my hometown requires time, thought, and money. For me, two of those things are working against me: I have just under 2 weeks to get ready for my move, and I barely have anything saved. On the other hand, I possess the knowledge to work my way through these obstacles in order to better myself later. I created a budget that will allow me to save so that one day, I can give to someone else the way others have for me. I know that this opportunity will be the blessing I need in order to jumpstart my career: helping the children who are under me to succeed.
A few years ago, I was the kid on New York City Transit writing, dreaming, and hoping for an opportunity to be great. When Plattsburgh became that opportunity, it gave me a new sense of empowerment and I never looked back. I became nearly a 3.0 student while being able to juggle sports, student organizational obligations, and my work toward my passion to help others. Now that I have graduated from college, I am at another crossroads, but I hope that people can see what Plattsburgh saw when they took a chance on me. I come from hard work, resilience, and determination, which I know will propel me above any place I ever imagined. However, life is still real, and right now I do not have the means to continue my journey the way I envision. I need help, and with a small investment in my future, I plan to not only become who I want to be, but also be able to help the people behind me that will need something to live the dreams that they want to live. As a former Vice President of the National Association of Black Accountants on my campus, I preach their motto to “lift as we climb.” This world can be a greater place, but we have to take one step at a time. I am simply looking for a lift to a bigger, better platform, and once I reach, I know that I’ll have others coming along with me.
- Mary Jane Debar
- Gucci Mane
- Alex Ehrhart
- Lindsay Mirchin
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