The most memorable moment of my life was opening my first college admissions email congratulating me on my acceptance. My ecstatic reaction was heard down the hall. And that elation continued in the next several weeks as I was accepted to all twelve colleges I’d set my sights on. Over a decade later, I can’t remember a time in my life when I felt more proud and accomplished. 

I didn’t have a typical upbringing because I went to school two and a half hours away from home, a boarding prep school called The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT. Picture a miniature version of a secluded college campus where most students were white, privileged, and accustomed to an unparalleled education. 

But let me caveat—I was not like them. I grew up in Queens, New York, where the population is over 2 million, and almost half are foreign-born. Imagine the world’s most crowded, ethnically diverse public school system, where one could get easily lost. And I was lost for a while until my fortune was turned by a program called Prep for Prep. Prep for Prep is a gifted education program dedicated to expanding educational access to students of color.

The program consists of a 14-month rigorous academic component to prepare students to be placed in some of the country’s most elite, private, and boarding schools. When I say I was a determined 12-year-old, it’s an where to buy winstrol understatement. I worked harder in those 14 months than ever in my adult life,  going to school on weekends and over two summers on top of my regular school schedule. 

But there was also the issue of money. I grew up in a six-family household with two parents and three sisters. My father was in law enforcement, and my mother was a receptionist for a non-profit. While we had all the essentials, we crammed ourselves into two-bedroom apartments and forwent any luxuries like travel, dining out, or extracurricular activities—not even sports. I spent most of my summers reading and writing little stories to keep myself busy.  

But Hotchkiss provided a free ride and access to Olympic-sized sports facilities and music, art, and dance facilities compared to colleges. Slowly but surely, my extracurricular activities list grew to include softball, cross country, track, music, student government, and more, setting me up for college. This achievement would never have been possible without the help of programs like Prep for Prep and Adopt A Destiny, where college preparedness for students of color is prioritized. 

Not only did they help me prepare for boarding school life, but they also provided the cultural awareness and community to handle the drastic changes. They set me up for some of my life’s hardest, most rewarding, and fantastic moments. I am forever grateful for them and determined to give back through volunteerism. 

I hope to help a determined student of color one day feel the joy of opening a college acceptance email with the magical words of congratulations.