For as long as I can remember, both my parents have suffered from chronic illnesses. Nine years ago, my father had a heart attack and consequently lost his job, which then caused my family to lose everything, including our house and car. Instead of feeling grim and causing my parents more stress, I wanted to find a way to help and make them proud. Thus, I threw all my energy into my schoolwork and got involved in extracurriculars. With my focus on my studies and hard work, I became an independent and disciplined student, and my resolve to succeed was strengthened upon entering high school.
Even though my family’s condition still worries me every day, I proceed with their love and encouragement, as well as the belief that I can attain success on my own. Since I know my parents are limited in what they can do for me, I am highly self-motivated—I want to be the first generation in my family to go to college. My hope is that I can achieve this dream through grants, loans, and scholarships because I want to take the financial worry away from my parents, and most importantly to me, make them proud.
My family’s hardships taught me at a young age how to be positive about the things I can control, and appreciative of the things I do have. With this mindset, I have always applied myself wholeheartedly to everything I do. Living in Ewing and attending the high school, community service has been a huge part of my life. As a freshman I signed up for many different activities, all of which allowed me to play an active role in my school and community. In my sophomore year, I homed in on my passions and really developed as a leader. It was then I realized the importance and true meaning of service, which is the achievement in my life that I consider most meaningful. My current achievements and interests are an indicator of what I plan on doing in my future, both in my career and in my community. These are my passions and goals, which are all on the path of urban education and community advancement. From my hands-on experiences thus far, I have witnessed the struggles of living in an urban community, and have also seen the rewards of my community involvement, particularly through working with children. Thus, my long-term goals are teaching secondary education and creating community programs which will strengthen educational interest and provide academic opportunities to low-income students.
"It was then I realized the importance and true meaning of service, which is the achievement in my life that I consider most meaningful."
- Victoria S.
I am very passionate about school: I love learning and all the extracurricular activities I do. In particular, I love community service because I believe that helping others can allow them to achieve success in their lives. My favorite way to do this is through tutoring elementary and middle school students at the library, as well as underclassmen Algebra II in my school. With my goal of being a teacher, I believe that instilling a love of learning in the students I help will encourage them to stay in school, empower them through education, and help lift them out of adversity.
As Vice President of Key Club I have spearheaded the service projects for my Key Club members in my community, which have included: assisting at our community blood drives, autism walks, Alex’s Lemonade fundraisers, volunteering at holiday events (Trunk or Treat and Christmas gift giving), Kiwanis and Senior Citizen pasta dinners, helping construct a playground at the community center, park clean-ups, and consistently helping at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and tutoring elementary and middle school students at the Ewing library.
"I want to have the same impact on students that my teachers have on me."
- Victoria S.
Another significant aspect of my service was attending the Urban Teacher Academy at The College of New Jersey this summer. Here, my eyes were opened to the disparities between children from poor and privileged backgrounds. I worked with the Boys & Girls Club and saw how eager all the kids were to learn. From this training and hands-on teaching experience, I learned that no matter the circumstances, every child deserves a good education because “a child is a child everywhere and every child is sacred,” as my program director would always tell us. Since my teachers have impacted me so positively with their passion, I love school so much that I practically live there. Their support really helped me through a difficult time two years ago when my father, now 82 years old, was in the hospital for four months, in a coma, on life support from aspiration pneumonia and multi-organ failure. Due to this, I needed to take on many extra responsibilities at home when my mother spent most of her time by my father’s side in the hospital. In order to help quell my own anxieties and get me through those worrisome four months, I became very involved at school. In effect, I also became self-reliant. I stayed there all day and threw my heart into all my activities, such that school became a second home to me. As a result of my involvement and dedication to my activities, I am: the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, secretary and chair of the Cafeteria for Student Council, captain of the girls’ varsity tennis team, chair of the Health and Wellness Committee, a Peer Leader, a member of the National Honor Society, and a frequent soloist in the Master Singers a cappella group. My teachers are my role models—they encourage me to be the best I can be, and so I want to be just like them. Hence, my goal is to go to college and ultimately get my master’s in secondary education. I want to have the same impact on students that my teachers have on me. These experiences made me realize the importance of having great teachers in urban schools because these students need someone to push them to their full potential, and I aspire to be that person. Now I know that teaching is not a job, it is a calling.
Consequently, throughout high school I have seized every opportunity to volunteer where I am needed, and I believe my efforts serving my community have made a difference, even if in a small way. Whether collaborating with others or working with one person at a time, I view my community service as work in progress. When I see the results, such as the light bulb going off in students’ heads when they understand something I explained, the appreciation on the faces of people after serving them food at the soup kitchen, or the sheer joy from toddlers receiving presents from Santa, I feel I have impacted my community and I want to do more. As Maya Angelou perfectly put it, “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This reigns true in my life, especially since I have grown up facing challenges and have benefited from help myself. Thus, I want to continue involving myself in outreach programs, particularly educational, because in the long run I believe my skills and my service can help community advancement and mitigate the risk of urban children falling through the cracks of society.
- Victoria S.