Varsity Tutors Scholarship Entry

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Cleon of Snellville, GA
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Sitting at a wooden desk for eight hours a day listening to a mundane lecture on the derivative of sine or the kinetics of a chemical reaction at times can make it very difficult for a student in a predominantly African-American school to see the greatness that lies within them. When students value being tough and cashing out with designer clothes more important than excelling in their studies and having realistic goals for their future, it is clear that under-performance will be prominent. When most high-performing students with skin rich with melanin are of immigrant parents or are immigrants themselves, there is a desperate need for change, and it must be change that comes from within. Given the opportunity to speak to my fellow peers, I would address this issue, including the culture of our school and how to achieve the excellence that we are so capable of.

When students only think about school within the confines of the four walls of their classroom, it is very easy for them to lose sight of how their academic performance not only affects them now but in the future as well. One of the most frequently used phrases is, “I’m never going to use this again.” A key point that I would definitely address with my peers is that sometimes it’s not the content that is important but rather the process; it’s not necessarily about what you learn but how you apply the knowledge which you have acquired. A great example of this is actually Girl Scout Cookies; this is the time of year where everyone is in great anticipation of some of their childhood favorites like Thin Mints or Samoas. When you really take the time to think about it though, what does selling cookies have to do with being a better scout or camping for that matter? Their answer is right on the box: it teaches them about people skills, money management, business ethics, decision making, and goal setting. If I could articulate to my peers to care about the content because it helps develop the process of putting it into practice, then I feel that they would benefit because of it.

The culture of any group of people is a key factor in the success of said group. When a school’s culture values academic excellence, service, and determination, then there is nothing that those students will be incapable of. That is the kind of focus that I feel my peers need, but many are too caught up in being like the rappers and celebrities that we see in the media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a young black Jamaican who loves hip-hop as well, but I know that modeling those behaviors will not put me on the trajectory for my life that I desire. I want my peers to know that there is a whole world of possibilities out there, and that you shouldn’t settle for mediocrity in anything that you do, so sports and music are not the only way to make a name for yourself and make a large amount of money doing so. Furthermore, even if you do know that that’s what you want to do with your life, it doesn’t mean that you have to leave all other classes and activities by the wayside because in whatever you do, strive for greatness. They’ll never know how much potential they have unless they access it, and the only way they can do that is if they try, and that’s a message I hope would really resonate with them.

Many times as we go through the motions from day to day, we lose sight of our purpose and what really matters in life. With young people it is even harder for them to find the vision of what their lives could be like once they find that purpose. Many do not know what they are capable of, and others do not care to find out. It is my honest belief that a message that brings empowerment to my fellow peers could bring some much needed change for our school culture. I want to help be a catalyst for that change and show our students the greatness that is just waiting to burst from inside of them. An uplifting message such as this I believe would raise their sights higher and give them a clearer view of the opportunities that lie ahead.