My senior year started out like any other year. The Lake People had left and Labor Day had come and gone. Soccer season was in full swing. It was like every other year in Rushford.
Except this would be the last year.
Alternating between intense excitement and dread would be my emotional feelings of the year. I was excited to think about getting ready to go to college. But I dreaded what the future would be away from my little town – the only place that I had known for these past sixteen years of my life.
Academically, I was still strong.
Since I had already taken most of the courses necessary to graduate, I took classes at Houghton College in the morning. I really liked being able to be in college as a high school student. My Spanish professor was a really nice guy and used to talk to me en espanol about seeing my name in the paper from my “futbol” games.
I remember the day after I had 18 saves and he said “dieciocho!” with a big thumbs up. The whole class was impressed and I felt really special. If this was what college was like, I was loving it.
Word had spread nationally about my performance on the PSAT and scholarship offers started coming in. I wish that my parents or my guidance counselor had known more about parlaying my academic success into money for college because I probably should have had a full ride with the combination of my academic, social and athletic achievements. But no one ever said anything and what did I know, a girl from the sticks, about scholarships?
I don’t know why I kept this letter from Carnegie Mellon. Maybe as a reminder that I will never again miss an opportunity like this. A reminder that I must always rely on myself to explore all my options and to find out what is the best path for me. My parents said they couldn’t afford to send me there, even with this scholarship and I believed them. So, I looked at other schools.
I ended up getting the NYS Regents Scholarship, as well. Which they eliminated during my third year of college because of “budget issues.” I always wondered how we could win a scholarship and then the money just “disappeared” and how no one ever questioned that. Maybe they did question it and had a big class action law suit about it and I never got a letter. All I know is that we never did get that whole $1,000.00 that NYS promised us when we graduated high school.
But I have a lot of really cool letters from legislators congratulating me on my award and my award letter that looks all official.
At least Jess Present looked up which scholarship I won, instead of sending out the “Nursing or Regents” scholarship form letter that John Hasper sent. Call me cynical, but when you are congratulating a child on an high academic honor, I would think a politician would be a bit more specific on the award and not be obvious that he was sending a form letter. But that’s just me.
A funny side note to the whole Regents Scholarship issue was when the school announced the winners in the school newsletter, they listed each of us and our accomplishments. I was the only person NOT on National Honor Society. And somehow, in the news letter, it was noted that I was a member of Honor Society.
To some people that might now have been a big deal, but after what they had put me through, I was livid. I demanded that they retract that statement. Seriously, detract that statement. They didn’t understand. I said, I was not going to let you give your school credit for inducting me in the Honor Society when in fact, you would not.
Let them explain why the only Black Regents Scholarship winner wasn’t in Honor Society.
And so it went my senior year. Me finding my voice. I think I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I had always been outspoken, but that year, I really became outspoken.
If a teacher was being mean to a kid about English, I would tell them that this kid knew more than they would ever know about fixing cars. If a teacher was getting on a class about acting bad, I would take the blame and say “whatever it is that you are on their backs about, punish me, blame me, it doesn’t matter anyway.”
I am sure that I was difficult to deal with in school that year. I am not sure, but I know that I had really reached a point where I just wanted to break free from it all. But in the interim, I was gonna do it my way. I was taking it to the limit.
Then came time for deciding where I would go to college. I had applied to only one school. SUNY Oswego. It was where my best friend was going and I wanted to go there too and study criminal justice in preparation for law school.
But then things changed and I decided I didn’t want to go to the same school as my best friend. And this was in about February 1988. You know right AFTER all colleges have made their admissions decisions. (This was long before the internet and digital applications and late applications).
But there was another option. I had gotten a letter from a different SUNY school called SUNY Buffalo. They told me I was eligible for a Minority Scholarship. I didn’t want to take it. Did that mean that I would have to admit that I was Black? I wasn’t ready for that.
My mother said that it was a good idea. That I should take advantage of my minority status and use the scholarship to go to school. After all, she and dad had promised that they would pay for school if I went. (They didn’t, but that’s later in the story). So I’d be wrong to not help them out. The scholarship was substantial – $3,000 a year. I don’t know what tuition was at UB that year, but I am sure that this scholarship covered a lot of it. So I agreed.
When I went to my guidance counselor and told him that I wanted to apply there, his answer was,”Good luck getting in, we’ve (meaning the school) never had any luck getting anyone in.” Which surprised me, because the letter I received seemed to indicate that I was already accepted, all I had to do was apply.
And believe me, I was happy to tell him that he was wrong when this letter came in the mail: