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Branching Out

By , Nyack, NY

Branching Out
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK “Good morning Samantha,” my mother smiled “time to get ready for your last first day of high school!”
I woke up and dressed in my last first day outfit, filled up my backpack with empty binders for the last first time, and kissed my parents goodbye before I drove to school.
My baby blue Fiat’s engine roared as I turned my keys and headed to Howard High School. I parked my car for the last first time next to the weeping willow tree a few feet before the entrance of the school.
“Hello Samantha! I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer!”, my principal greeted.
I said hi to all my friends and teachers and breezed through my classes. I told myself that I would make the most out of everyday for my last year as a high school student. And possibly, my last year in this town…
I want to go to school in California and pursue my dream of working in the medical field. But my parents want me to stay in Charlestown, Rhode Island, attend a local college, and buy an apartment nearby. It’s a beautiful town, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I’ll reach my full potential here. Throughout history, generations of my family have grown up here. They believe it is important to stay together to keep close relationships with each other.
But I want to live! I want to attend Stanford and explore what other opportunities that the world has for me. I want to travel and try new foods and meet new people. I want to be happy.
So I decided that I was going to work harder than anyone else in my school and show my parents that I deserve to make life decisions for myself. I stayed up all night, working on my college essay, and missed watching my school’s football game. It was worth it because I was willing to sacrifice certain things to accomplish my goal.
The next morning, on the table I see my hard work cut up and used for arts and crafts.
“AHHHH! Jess!!”, I screamed. I was in shock. Jessica, my younger sister, had made snowflakes out of my paper.
“It’s for you, Sammy!”, she smiled. She didn’t know any better. I wanted to be upset but there was no time… and it’s almost impossible to be mad at innocent snowflakes. School started soon so I was rushing to redo the report.
Just as I started panicking, I see Jessica holding a keychain with a dangling pink flash drive.
“What’s this Sammy?”, Jess asked.
“YES! Thank you so much, Jess! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”, I exclaimed. I completely forgot that I saved my document on my pink flash drive. Hurriedly, I printed my essay out and arrived at school just before the first bell.
“Wow, you’re grades definitely meet their standards,”, my guidance counselor said.
“Thank you, Stanford is my favorite school. It would be a dream come true to be accepted by them.” I responded.
“And you said you’re interested in pursuing a career in the medical field, correct?”, he asked.
“Yes. But…my parents don’t want me going there.”, I said.
“I understand. Many parents don’t want their child to attend certain colleges because it is costly.”, he explained.
I didn’t think about that factor. Did my parents not want me to leave to keep a tradition or because of something more? Last week, I did see my mom crying in the kitchen, but she claimed it was because of the chopped onions. I didn’t think anything of it. Or maybe I didn’t want to.
During lunch, I drove home to speak to my mom. I wasn’t sure if how I would start the conversation. Should I approach her angrily or act ignorant? Should I bring the topic up smoothly or just flat-out say it?
“Mom, are we poor?”, I just flat-out said it.
“Well, sweetie, we have money…”, she said.
“But not a lot?”
“Your father got laid off last week.”
“Do you really want me to stay in Charlestown or is it because that’s all we can afford?”
“If it were up to me, I would send you to whichever school makes you happy, dear.”
I felt like someone punched me in the gut. My own mother, metaphorically speaking, punched me in the gut. And getting metaphorically punched in the gut but your mother is not a pleasant feeling.
But I had to figure out how to move forward from here, so I went back to school.
“What are my options?”, I asked my guidance counselor.
He explained all about financial aid to me, helped my submit my transcript, college essay and even gave me a word of advice.
“You know… It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get accepted. There are so many other options and opportunities that may suit you,” he said.
“I understand. Thank you for all your help,” I said, gratefully.
In December, just 2 days before Christmas, I see a letter in the mailbox. It had an official Stanford stamp and my name just above the mailing address.
I ran inside and called everyone downstairs.
“MAA, DAD, JESS!!”, I screamed.
“What?! Is everything okay??”, my dad asked, worriedly.
“Yes,” I laughed, “everything is fine. My letter came in!”
“That’s exciting, do you want to be alone?”
“No, I want to open it with my family that I am eternally blessed for.”
Everyone smiled. I smiled. My hands were shaking as I slowly opened the envelope. My heart was racing faster than an olympic runner. I slipped out the paper…
I took a deep breath in.
I took a deep breath out.
And read.
“Dear Samantha Charles,
It gives me great pleasure to invite you into the Stanford family as a member of the class of-”
“AHHHH!”, my family screamed almost simultaneously. They were all so happy for me that they didn’t even care about the money.
I was so happy to have been accepted, but more happy to have these people in my life. I know that throughout college, we’d always stay in touch. I promised that I would get a part time job to save up for plane tickets to come back home during my break. I promised to always to come back to my home, Charlestown.




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