One girl wrote a personal essay about “sharing one room with three siblings, living in a two-bedroom apartment with seven people. Hearing and seeing fights, gunshots all night, yelling and screaming every day.”
Her mother’s attempted suicide forced Chiquita to ignore her own needs. “All that year, I was so focused on my mother, I forgot how to be a kid, I forgot about Chiquita, how the simplest things in life make me smile.”
Many students resisted writing about painful memories. “Why would anyone be interested in this?” some said, or “I don’t want people feeling sorry for me.” For most students, maintaining their poise meant blocking out the images that reminded them of their vulnerability.
Angelica Moore, a high-achieving and charismatic student, revealed that her self-possession was “all a front” for her insecurity. “I was always told since I was younger not to show my weakness because people will take advantage of it. It’s better to walk around with my head high and make it seem like I have it together.”
Getting into college isn’t the challenge for these students. It’s succeeding once they get there.