I’m sharing my story so that other students of color know that they’re not alone. We will all overcome and succeed even under difficult circumstances. My name is Sam and is my #BecauseWeWill story.
In 2015, I got rejected from my dream school. The disappointment brought me down to my knees, it was heavy and it hurt. I became haunted by “what if’s”. I even felt embarrassed to walk around the halls in my school because the college that I spoke excitingly about didn't want me. They didn’t consider me worthy to represent them. I got so depressed that I stopped going to school for a few days. My college counselor gave me a call after noticing my absences and offered to meet with me outside of school. In our meeting she told me that not getting into my dream school wasn’t the end of my dreams, it was the end of one single dream, and if I accepted this, we could then create space for better things to come. I trusted her advice.
I took a risk and attended Borough of Manhattan Community college. I got my associates degree in 2017 and transferred to SUNY New Paltz Spring 2018. Going to SUNY New Paltz as a student of color frightened me because I knew it was a predominantly white school, but I felt the urgency to show my friends that sometimes we need to go to places that scares us the most because that’s where big bold change can happen. Unfortunately, My first few months were unbearable. I was constantly flabbergasted by the racist and discriminatory comments from students who considered me an anomaly for being a queer woman who dressed like” a boy.” I felt isolated in classrooms for being the only student of color. This also happened during a time where I was dealing with food insecurity and a lot of self-doubt. It eventually began to impact my academic performance and it got so bad that I was forced to take a semester off. During my semester break, I started working full time at a retail store. Jokingly, I also applied to other colleges in hopes to prove to myself that I was still capable of getting accepted into a well-known school. I got a college letter in the mail one afternoon. It shared the news of my acceptance into Stella Adler Studio of Acting, a prestigious acting school in California. I was stunned, so excited that I felt I had to give it a try. I left for Los Angeles in January 2019 to complete their 15-week acting program. In Los Angeles, I met other queer students of color who were facing similar situations. They were like me and I was like them! I felt a sense of belonging that bolstered my confidence. I started spending more time with them and together we shared tips on how to support each other to create a community where other students like us felt welcomed. Thanks to their support I decided to fight my fears and go back to New Paltz. I had gotten accepted into a new school, I felt ready to try again.
In Spring 2020, I returned to New Paltz. I connected to the counseling center for mental support. I was happy to be back to school, but then the COVID-19 pandemic struck New York State. Due to health protocols, students were required to stay locked in their dorm rooms and avoid any social interactions with others. I found myself drowning in anxiety due to the pounding thoughts of “maybe this is a sign that college isn’t for me.” One morning, during finals, I reached out to my Women Studies professor to express my solitude. She told me that she also felt scared. Some of her family members had contracted COVID-19. I felt very relieved from my conversation with her because I found the reminder that I needed to continue persisting. It wasn’t just me! Everyone was afraid.
Looking back now, I’ve realized that in your college career you’re going to find more reasons to quit than to keep going. Your college path will never be clear-cut. The obstacles you encounter will test your tenacity, but you don’t have to face those struggles alone. My advice to you is to reach out to your professors, your mentors, and your friends.They will always be there to guide you. You will also meet people along the way who will walk with you and help you find reasons to keep moving forward. After all, I’d like to think that my struggles came bearing gifts because not only did they strengthened my determination, they helped me realize how important college is for me. Thanks to my college counselor, my professors, and my mentors, I am a lot closer to graduating college.
And with this, I want every student of color to know that you are not alone and together WE WILL achieve our college dreams because by supporting each other we can make all of our dreams possible. #BecauseWeWill.