#My500Words: Day 6 of 31 "Graduation Day"

Graduation Day, NYU 2016

On May 18th, 2016 I attended New York University’s 2016 Commencement at Yankee Stadium as a graduate. When looking back at it that day was probably one of the most important days of my life. What was once a dream became a reality. A testament that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. On that day, I accomplished an 8-year goal of mine that I made to myself the day I graduated high school. Which was to attend graduate school and graduate from a top university in New York. This goal was always on the top of my mind throughout my undergraduate career and I tried my best to take the strides to get closer to that goal to set myself up for success.

In all honesty, my work ethic and academic performance in college were mediocre at best. A series of semesters of highs and lows, periods of depression would affect my performance in the classroom. Including a junior year that I threw down the drain and didn’t have a GPA above a 2.5 in the same year. But, there was still a story behind my worst semesters in college. Everything that I went through would end up making me the man that I am today. As a part of my application to NYU, I expressed all of this in my personal statement. I painted a story of overcoming adversity, constantly searching for passion, and finding inspiration in my career.

When I received the admissions letter in the mail a few months after I applied, it would be the most nerve wrecking experience. Do I open it now? Wait until my mom gets home? I had to know! I went for it and broke the seal and immediately saw the NYU Admissions Department stamp with Dear Jeremy Divinity under it. The following words would be the words that I was not exactly looking for. They didn’t deny me admission, but they didn’t say I was accepted either. The letter read “I have been accepted under Special Student circumstance” and would have to achieve a B+ or above in my all of my classes in the first semester in order to continue in the program. My heart sank; I took the letter as an indication that they were turning me down as if I didn’t get in. It seemed like too big of a risk to travel across the country and bet it all on one semester. What would I do if I fail?

I believe in guardian angels and that some people are in your life at certain points for a reason. Two weeks went by after I received the letter and I had already told my supervisors that I was turning down the offer from NYU. I was scared of the risk. Then one day at lunch, one of my favorite co-workers who served as a big sister to me would ask me about NYU and if I heard anything. I explained to her what the letter said and told her that it was too risky “I’d have to get a B+ in all my classes in my first semester, plus I wouldn’t get federal aid, and it’s all the way across the country”. She didn’t try to convince me to change my decision but her words would be the words that would lead me to New York City a few months later. She said, “What did I have to lose?”

What did I have to lose? As I thought about an answer and myself came to me immediately. It was nothing; I didn’t have anything to lose.

NYU was giving me a chance. They were giving me an opportunity to prove myself by opening the door. They gave me an opportunity to achieve my dream(s). All I had to do now was put in the work and everything else would fall into place. I went home that same day after work and went straight into my parent's room. I’m going to NYU, I yelled to my mom. That was it, I had made my decision and I’m going. I’ve made up my mind and am emailing the admissions counselor tonight I told her. This is it. I can’t pass this up. I can do this and I deserve this. My mom was cautious at the moment, as she is always protective over me. But I told her that I had to do this, to prove to myself that I can achieve my dreams. Plus, she always said that if I put my mind to it, I could always achieve anything that I wanted. I put my mind to it, I was going to go to NYU and I would kill it!

My first class at NYU was as nerve wrecking as a really promising interview. Did I really belong here? Was I worthy enough to be sitting in this classroom with the other students who had been really admitted…and didn’t have the “Special Student” label? My entire first semester at NYU was a semester of constant searching. I felt like I didn’t belong and was out of place. However, it would be my performance in the classroom that would prove my belonging. I ended that semester with all A-‘s and above.

All I had to do was put in the work and the rest followed. The nights in the library, the weekend mornings in the coffee shop, and weekly group project meetings would all pay off. I proved to not only myself that I was worth it but also to the NYU admissions team that they made the correct decision by giving me an opportunity.

May 18th, 2016, it's graduation day. I’m graduating NYU with honors, a 3.9 GPA, and the respect of my peers and faculty. I took a risk in 2014, which was the decision to just say f*ck it and follow my dreams. I put my mind to it and no other day of my life felt more surreal than May 18th. As I sat in Yankee stadium that afternoon and looked around me, here I am, a young African-American male from Los Angeles. I wasn’t the best student in high school and didn’t get the best grades in college but I achieved a milestone of a lifetime. I am now an NYU alumnus with a Masters degree in Marketing.

Previously I didn’t even think that I belonged here. On May 18th, it was the exact opposite feeling. Not only did I belong, but I also finished at the top of my class.

Like my mom said, I can achieve anything that I put my mind to. We can achieve anything that we put our minds to if we just put in the work, and then everything else will follow.