On the Wings of Adversity
“Dreams are aspirations ready to take flight,” I reminded myself as the van dropped me off in the unfamiliar neighborhood and the feeling of dread crawled up my spine. My experience had taught me to walk close to the curb and avoid the houses with no lights. So for six hours on weekdays and twelve hours on Saturdays, my heart rate increased exponentially as I walked around unknown neighborhoods, selling miscellaneous items for money. I was only thirteen years old. At the end of the week, I had pocketed twenty-five percent of what I had sold, barely 200 dollars. When I was three, my family and I came to America from Nigeria. I couldn’t have fathomed then that I would end up working full time at the age of thirteen in order help my family survive.
As the years continued on with a sinuous crawl, the size of my family increased to seven. I became a diligent, hardworking, social person, but it hasn’t always been this way. By the tender age of eight, I had become a surrogate mother to my younger siblings. My father, by then, had started his own taxi company and worked twelve to fourteen hours each and every day. I was lucky if I was able to see him four days out of the week. When my mother wasn’t working nights, she was in the hospital for her intense back pain or having another child. I became a caretaker, having to go to sleep at 2:00 am or constantly waking up throughout the night because my siblings would not stop crying when they needed to be fed or changed. The next day I would open my heavy lidded eyes, clouded over in sleeplessness, to drag my limp body out of bed and prepare my siblings and I for school. During these years, my arms felt like heavy loads, sagging under all the weight on my shoulders. I wondered if life was even worth it, but I knew I had become the citadel of the family. If I fell, then my family would subsequently crumble.
During this time, violence became a natural occurrence in my neighborhood, which was already riddled with gunshots and drug dealing. Once, when my father was on his way home from his grueling day of work, I heard gunshots being fired right outside my home. I grabbed my siblings and pushed them down to the floor as I had learned to do in these situations. I could hear my blood pounding in my eardrums, along with the sound of gunshots whizzing by. The immense terror that gripped me on that night has plagued my dreams consistently. As a result, I now aspire to rise above this negativity.
I attend Middle College High School (MCHS) where I concurrently take high school and college classes. MCHS is an alternative school which places an emphasis on academics. I have taken classes such as Chemistry 120, Calculus II, Biology 110 and African American History. So when I graduate from high school, I will earn my Associate’s Degree in college. In order to get to school, since my freshmen year I have woken up at 5:00 am to take the bus at 6:10 am for an hour-long ride to San Pablo, CA. I know my journey will pay off because there is nothing I value higher than having a fulfilling education. And though I no longer walk the streets at night trying to make a sale, I invest my time working as a peer tutor at school, imparting my knowledge to others; so that they can teach one another. MCHS has given me a chance to demonstrate that I can succeed despite hindering circumstances. With a 4.21 weighted GPA and as number two in my class of seventy students, I exhibit nothing less than success.
My extracurricular activities have aided in my passage and hardened my core belief that by utilizing the strength I have gained in my experiences and incorporating them into helping others, no obstacle can obstruct my pathway. I am Senior Class President and former Co-President of my high school, the school-wide student representative of the School Site Council (SSC), and a member of Contra Costa college’s prestigious Alpha Gamma Sigma Society (AGS), an honors society that requires me to maintain a 3.00 GPA in my college classes. This is no problem considering I have a 4.00 GPA in college.
Through education, I can end the impoverished cycle my family has lived, further helping my family. By taking an active role in making sure that I receive the best education possible to me, I can make sure that no child, niece, or nephew of mine will have to sell items to help their family maintain financial stability. Neither will they have to stay up late at night to take care of siblings, and forsake their childhood for the benefit of the family. Nothing can erase the hardships I’ve endured, just as nothing can erase my zeal to soar above and succeed.