When I’m on the court everything disappears. It’s like I am on a different planet or some different world where everyone is there for the same reasons…..to compete and simply for the love of the game.
I was born after 9/11 and the world was pretty messed up in terms of humanity. I was too young to understand the reality of hate, racism and war. It didn’t exist in my life. It didn’t have a place in my home where our family celebrates the diverse members that are related by blood or loved by choice. I don’t believe I have a family tree, but more so, a family garden. People are born into our family and others find their way into our lives due to circumstance. Color, race, religion, gender……all of the “hot topics” never mattered in our home. We were just one family. We relied on each other and took care of each other in good times and especially bad times.
When I was little, my mom was very sick. I was about nine years old but I was the oldest child with two younger siblings. My dad had to work and I had to assume some of the household responsibilities such as cleaning, laundry and helping the kids get ready for school and then with homework. It seemed that things were getting better, but then my mom got sick again. This time she was pregnant with my youngest sister and she was sick for a very long time. I remember my abuela helping me wash bottles one morning and then going upstairs to change my mom’s bedding so she would be comfortable. I wanted to burst into tears because I thought I was going to lose her. I wasn’t ready for a world without my mom. I was all of eleven years old and I could run a house like no bodies business (with the help of my dad, nana and abuela). I can’t remember how old I was when I found out that it was cancer that kept my mom so sick but I do know that I was 13 when she began the fight to beat the disease. During that time, my parents made sure that we knew we were loved and that we would be okay. I am happy to say that my mother beat cancer….twice. The lessons that I learned during that time were the beginning of an education in life skills and the power of faith. The value of hard work, commitment, integrity and above all, leadership. I feel that if that situation had been a course of study I would have passed with all A’s.
I have always been athletic. It is a family trait. I started martial arts when I was three years old. I went to a dojo with my titi and my cousin for a few years. I loved training. I especially like sparring because I could get my anger out without getting in trouble for doing so. I looked forward to going and learning but things still were difficult because I always had my mom on my mind. I didn’t like being too far away from her knowing she was sick. Once my siblings were old enough, we all joined a dojo in our hometown and it was there that I began to feel I could achieve anything I set my mind to regardless of obstacles that could have hampered my success. I became a leader as a member of the Black Belt Club as well as captain of the Demo and Sparring teams. I dedicated all of my free time to martial arts and began to realize the correlation between effort and achievement. It was like I needed more of this feeling of empowerment. I needed more of the feeling of self confidence and knowing my worth as a biracial/multicultural female.
My dad introduced me to basketball when I was nine. He thought that I needed it due to my anxiety and anger management issues. It is important to note that my parents work in human services. Therefore they were able to pinpoint and understand what I was going through and were able to implement coping strategies. They refrained from medical treatments and labels because they knew that our family would get through this together. I remember that my dad had back surgery sometime in the middle of my mother’s illness. He was in so much pain and he still made sure we went to every practice, game, and event. I recall him walking slowly into the gym with a cane and I think that he became my hero at that very moment. I knew that I was going to give my all to this game watching him walk across the court. By the time I was in fourth grade, my dad was the assistant coach of my team for the recreation league. In the fifth grade, I started playing AAU for the RI Breakers and in the sixth grade I was opportune to play with the eighth graders as the youngest starter. I remained with that team for two years and was constantly working on being the best I could be. It just so happens that I have almost always been the smallest on the court and that lends to a whole different mindset when competing. I knew I had to work harder.
When I was getting ready to go into the eighth grade, my parents were forced to find a new home as the house we had rented for years fell into foreclosure with no hope of being able to remain there. My parents researched various communities with the education system being a top priority in the search. They found our home in Western Cranston and they were able to buy it which made everyone happy because we would never have to worry about being kicked out due to someone else’s actions. We thought it was going to be great. I could still play basketball for the Breakers and in fact, I actually played for two Breakers teams at the same time. My father became my head coach and I was blessed to have another head coach who would greatly impact my life even though I did not know it at the time. I thought my life was perfect.
When school started, things once again changed. I had received really good grades in my former school with the help of an IEP but the IEP did not transfer with me to my new school. I quickly fell behind and began to regret that we moved away from all I had known. I was failing miserably. In fact, I played two games and was then benched for poor grades. I was given the opportunity to bring them up, which I did, in order to continue with the team. This did not last and I was falling further behind. I was once again finding myself frustrated and angry. I failed off the team. I was devastated.
Perseverance. One of the qualities of any true champion is how they handle defeat. My parents weren’t going to allow the pity party I wanted to entertain myself with and gave me little choice in the lesson of perseverance. The head coach of my high school AAU team offered to tutor me and that was truly a wake up call. If I wanted to succeed on the court, I had to succeed in the classroom. Despite all of the effort on everyone’s part, my grades had little improvement. One of the biggest decisions I have made was to “reclassify” and remain in the eighth grade for an additional year so that I could better prepare myself academically. I understood that I would not be able to play if I didn’t keep my grades up and that year I made the honor roll. That experience enough to motivate me to do better. It was really difficult watching everyone go to high school without me, especially since I was still the new kid. My sister happened to be in many of my classes and looking back, I wouldn’t change that decision because it brought so much to my life and a greater understanding of what is important beyond the court.
During the division championships of eighth grade, I was given the opportunity to attend the prestigious Putnam Science Academy. I left home and lived there for eighteen months. I thought that I would graduate from there and be recruited to a D1 college or even drafted to the WNBA. However, I didn’t anticipate a global pandemic being thrown into the path of my plans. The longer the pandemic went on, the more my anxiety increased. I found myself wanting to go home and be with the people who mattered. I left the academy and started at Cranston High School West. I was hopeful that a recruiter would still see me, even on a smaller stage. The first four games, I was benched due to transferring. However, I have come full circle this past year and enjoyed playing with a great group of women and coached by my dad. It was his first year as head coach in a school system and we made it to the final four. My grades are good, my game has improved and I am looking forward to a successful senior year.
Over the summer I plan to work supporting people with disabilities and volunteer for Special Olympics. As stated, I come from a very diverse family and I have grown up seeing first hand the value of all abilities. I especially have learned from my uncle who lives with Down Syndrome, that people need to be included in the world. I have seen the love he has for all of us and the love everyone has for him. It is my intention to be able to work advocating for people with disabilities and truly make a difference in life.
In looking toward the future, it is my hope to study sports science or physical therapy. I I know that I have what it takes to work hard and given the chance, I believe that I will succeed in achieving success on the court and in life. I was born into a country when it was at war. I have lived through a global pandemic. I am currently watching world events unfold and I still have hope for the future. I know that I can become whatever I decide because so many experiences and people have shaped the person I am. I know that basketball has greatly impacted my life. It wasn’t just a pastime or a phase. It literally saved me from so many things growing up and I think that I have not only a genuine respect for all of the lessons, but I absolutely have a “love for the game”.
Thank you for your consideration with regards to my admission application.