LaG and the D: A Success Story

I never wanted to go to college because I didn’t like the competitive application process and was scared I would be rejected. I’ve always been insecure about my talents since I started High School. I’m from a musical family, my grandmother, my parents, and my sister are all musicians but when I auditioned for the high school my mom and my sister attended for voice (Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts or LaG), they rejected me. Since then, I never gave my all at an audition. I never entered competitions. I was discouraged. I put so much work into that specific audition, & I considered it my best one, only to be told I wasn’t good enough.

My attitude became: you can’t fail if you don’t try.

During High School, while all my friends were getting A’s, I was getting B’s. When it came to college talk I told my friends I would just join the armed forces so I could go to college for free. The truth was I didn’t want to compete with the students at The Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School when it came to Higher Education. If I came from a family of musicians and couldn’t get into a music school, I thought my chances were slim getting into a regular college based on my academics.  One of the school guidance counselors asked me why she never saw me in the office getting help with my college applications and I told her point blank: I’m not good enough for college, I’ll just join the army or something. She seemed shocked because although I didn’t get into LaG, I got into a school called the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music. While we were having this conversation, I was a section leader in Women’s Choir, an alto saxophonist in Concert Band, a student in Advanced Placement English, Advanced Placement US History, as well as a member of Yearbook Committee and the Prom Committee.

She told me I was selling myself short & I needed to let go of my failures in the past. She explained that even though I didn’t get into LaGuardia, that didn’t mean I would be rejected from everything else I wanted in life. She told me that I was one of the brightest students at my high school and I would regret it if I didn’t give myself a chance.

Realistically, my mom wouldn’t allow me to join the armed forces anyway, and at the last possible moment to apply to schools, I did. I was accepted into 7 of the 8 schools I applied to. One of those schools was Penn State Hazleton. Everyone wanted me to attend but out of fear that I would flunk out of such a prestigious school I declined their offer. I realize now my failed audition all those years ago really did some damage.

Then, in the summer of 2013, I had a Film Arts professor who detested my writing and made me question if my Communications minor was worth it. We were writing film reviews and because he did not agree with my opinion of certain films, he gave me low grades. That professor changed my ‘you can’t fail if you don’t try’ attitude. I wanted to try. I wanted him to give me high grade because the quality of my writing was good even though he disagreed with the content. In my last semester, spring 2014, he became the only thing between me and my degree. I realized I wasn’t just there because I got accepted or because my mother wouldn’t let me join the armed forces. I was there because I had a love of literature, writing, and a new found interest in Communications. I worked so hard with this professor, going so far as to meet with him before and after classes whenever I could, only to get a D. While I really wanted at least a C, I cried tears of joy that it wasn’t an F. I had succeeded and reached my goal of fulfilling my communications minor even though the professor and I did not see eye to eye. I would have never thought a D would be part of my success story but, even though I didn’t get an A, I was able to complete the course and earn my degree. I also learned that degree is not only an accomplishment for me, but an accomplishment for my family. I am not the first in my family to attend college but, out of my five older cousins who attempted school before me, I am the only one who graduated.

Until that moment, until that D, I always felt like a failure because I wasn’t a great musician like the rest of my family. It seems I was never meant to be a musician. While I’m still trying to discover or create who or what I’m supposed to be, my degree gives me a confidence I lost when I was rejected all those years ago. I’m no longer scared to take chances and explore opportunities. My years in college made me realize that I have drive, ambition, and passion and I needed to focus more on what I can do and less on what people think I can’t do. Just because one path didn’t work out does not mean that no path will work out. I did not even realize I had succeeded until I reflected on when I failed. I’m proud to say that I attribute my success to the realization that just because I did not reach one goal doesn’t mean I should never have goals. I attribute my success to the passion and drive that I discovered I had when I finally started to try to reach new goals I set. Most of all, I attribute my success to my failures, because they led to my greatest accomplishment in life so far: My Bachelor of Arts.

Elle