I was so afraid to hit submit on my college application because that meant leaving home

ByDeja Bean-Hines (guest essay)

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One of the hardest things I’ve had to do was to hit the submit button on my application to Spelman because that means leaving home. My mom raised my older sister, younger brother and me by herself. She and I are a tag-team duo.

Growing up, she was hospitalized a lot due to gout in her legs. I had to spend a lot of time with my grandparents, but she’s been my biggest cheerleader. She’s at every parent meeting and all of my after-school events. She wants college for me almost as much as I do.

I’m on edge waiting for a notification letter from Spelman because every time I think about it, the days go by slower and slower and slower. And if I get accepted, my life will change so much.

Spelman is nationally known for preparing intelligent Black women for medical school and I’ve been wanting to go to a historically Black college or university for a while. Atlanta is far away from Houston and I’m scared to be away from my mom, my older sister, and my younger brother, but KIPP has taught me to be open to opportunities that come your way. My next choice schools are Howard and the University of Texas at Austin—in case I decide I don’t want to be too far away from home after all.

I’ve been with KIPP since fifth-grade. I attended Liberation, then transferred to Spirit and graduated in eighth-grade, and then became a part of KIPP Sunnyside High School.

KIPP can be a tough place because your teachers have high expectations for students. And it’s not just about getting into college or taking tests, either. It goes all the way down to everyday homework. If something wasn’t right, I would get points deducted from every assignment if it wasn’t my best—and they knew what my best was or what my potential is. I’m really grateful for that because sometimes students feel that their teachers don’t believe in them. I know at KIPP everybody believes in you.

My favorite teacher has been Mr. Hynes, who teaches AP U.S. history. His lesson plans clicked with me because he presented the material in an energetic manner. I knew what I was doing at all times. Before taking the exam, we took two mock AP exams, and because he prepared us so well, I got a 3, which was the first time I passed an AP exam.

However, science is my first love, which is why I want to study medicine. AP physics is tough because I’m not crazy about math. Still, I always want to take the hardest classes I can. I’m also taking calculus, government, literature and composition, and economics—all AP.

I’m also a member of my school’s dance team, Sunnyside Dance Company. There are about 11 or 12 of us and we’re very close-knit and competitive. We perform majorette jazz at games, but we also explore modern, contemporary and lyrical pieces. Although I’ve been on the team for three years, it’s hard to describe. It’s so perfect. I love it so much and would not want to do anything else. The team’s assistant coach, Roneshia Ray, is also my college counselor.

Miss Ray is informative about a whole lot of things. I try to suck as much information out of her as I can before I go because I don’t want to be lost. I ask her what college was like for her and what I need to do in order to make it a good experience for me.

Internalizing all my lessons learned at KIPP is what I’ve tried to do.

Before sixth-grade, I never heard the words ‘grit’ or ‘perseverance,’ I didn’t know what they meant, but with KIPP I found out what they meant and what it meant to live by them. As a scholar, they’ve always told me to put my best foot forward, to turn in something you would want to receive from someone else.

I push hard because I know I can. I give my all in my AP classes and I have a job at Sonic after school. I always strive to earn what is given to me.

KIPP makes sure you have everything that you need to go where you want to go; they’re very supportive. They always look for new opportunities for you, so it’s not a closed-minded organization—it’s very open. They give you a lot of opportunities whether inside or outside of the network. I’d say it’s pretty awesome.