BLOG POST: College Achieve Central Helped Me Be First in My Family to Go to College

College Achieve Central Helped Me Be First in My Family to Go to College
By: Dayana Caluna, senior, College Achieve Central

World famous tennis star Rafael Nadal—my favorite tennis player—once said, “However great you are, you never win anything on your own.” I marveled at that statement—here’s one of the greatest tennis players in the world and he’s saying he didn’t get to where he is by himself. I’m sure he’s talking about his coaches, trainers, friends and family helping him achieve such great heights.

I didn’t get what he meant until this year. As I get ready to graduate from high school, I look back and see that my school—College Achieve Central—has helped me win. The school leaders worked hard for me. They invested in me and stood by my side every step of the way to make sure that I discovered my passions, had the opportunity to pursue my interests and the skills to succeed.

I love tennis. I was so obsessed with tennis in the 6 th grade that the school staff helped me start a tennis club. As I got older and entered the 9 th grade, I felt empowered to seek opportunities to grow my game outside of school because of how much my school supported my passion for tennis inside of the school. When I expressed an interest in becoming a lawyer, my school provided the opportunity to take a law class in college. I quickly realized after taking that class that a career in law wasn’t for me. My counselor, Ms. Moore, told me about a business course at Rutgers. I was interested in exploring it, but I was hesitant because I was the only person from my class going into the program. With her encouragement, I went and discovered I love business and want to major in it at college.

Throughout my six years at College Achieve, our teachers and school leaders kept college in my view. They knew what they were facing serving students with statistically lower college-going rates–including students of color, SPED students, low-income students, and students who would be the first in their families to attend college. So, they started early and went in strong.

They hired a special consultant to individually work with us for one year on our college essays. They provided intense SAT-prep courses free of charge. They held classes for our families to learn the college application and FAFSA processes, since many like mine didn’t have the first idea about how to navigate them.

I’m proud to announce that College Achieve Central helped me accomplish one of my big dreams—to be the first in my family to go to college. I’ll be attending Smith College, one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country, with a scholarship. I plan to major in business, and I also plan to try out for the tennis team.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this major life transition. But one thing I’m not as nervous about is college courses. My classmates and I have had so many opportunities to take college-level courses. Our school leaders would say to us that the reason they were offering 13 AP courses and requiring us to take at least three was because they don’t believe you can be truly prepared to succeed in college until you take college-level courses. Now we’re going in knowing the level of rigor we should expect in college—and the confidence in knowing from experience that if we work hard, we’ll do just fine.

My wish for every student is for them to receive endless love and support from their teachers, staff, and school leaders. It has changed my life and set me on a path to college and in the future, a career in business. College Achieve helped me embody the confidence of Rafael Nadal. With the right team behind me, I can accomplish any dream I have! I plan on taking that winning spirit to college with me in the fall.