Narelys Chum: Success is possible no matter where you are

Recently, I have been thinking about Sponsor-a-Scholar and how much it  saved me as a Freshman in High School. I was an isolated, shy, depressed kid who only set academic goals because that's how I defined my worth, but I really needed something more to help me after I spent all of 8th grade talking to absolutely no one, having no friends, and sinking deeper into depression.

Mr. Riccio was my guidance counselor at the time, and I remember he told my mother a little about the program. I remember going into ninth grade with Sponsor-A-Scholar being my ultimate goal. I remember just as I was losing hope when everyone was being accepted at the end of the year but me, tears came to my eyes when my art teacher told me Mr. Riccio forgot to call me down to speak to me about Sponsor-A-Scholar. I felt as if my prayers were answered, and no words can explain how much that meant to me at that time. Walking down those stairs to the guidance office crying, something in me told me that that was just the beginning of a long journey to many successes and opportunities. As a freshman who was going through so much at the time, I really needed that vote of confidence and that's what kept me going.

Through the program, I met Mr. Riccio and Mr. Meikle, two people who mentored me. My first year of High School was Mr. Meikle's first year of being a guidance counselor, so we shared this journey together. I was a kid who never spoke but I remember he always tried to have a conversation with me which was almost impossible at the time. I had severe anxiety, depression, and horrible social skills. During my last two years of high school, I went through a lot personally and mentally, but in darkness you will also always find the most amazing people who will support you.

Mr. Meikle became one of those people for me, he was a huge part of my support system and he really aided me in recovery. Every opportunity that he came across, he would make me aware of it. Thanks to Mr. Meikle, I applied for the Big Mind Learning Scholarship Essay Contest, and won a $500 scholarship. 

Now, I am heading off to college and I can honestly say that Sponsor-A-Scholar recognizing my efforts as a ninth grader allowed me to take the first step in knowing that I can achieve goals, and that success is possible no matter where you are in life physically, socially, and mentally.

I am nervous but also very excited for college because I have learned so much in the last four years, and it's all just the beginning. I'm willing to hit rock bottom, and get back up again. To laugh and cry and still have hope, to hurt and learn from my mistakes, to be stressed and frustrated but to learn balance and still smile, and to work my way up from the bottom all the way to the top because I guess that's always what I've been trying to do in life. Establish resilience, live with the least regrets, and continue to survive whilst helping all those in my path and allowing myself to be helped as well. 

All in all, Sponsor-A-Scholar did not only relieve me from many financial worries by granting me a $6,000 stipend and paying for trips that have made so many life-changing memories possible, but it has allowed me the access to some amazing people that I cannot imagine my life without. I am heading to college with a good friend of mine, Sean Davis, who is also part of Sponsor-A-Scholar. I honestly cannot be prouder to say that Sponsor-A-Scholar has been part of my very long journey because when I think back to my first success after moving from Spanish Harlem to Troy, I can truly say it was being inducted into this amazing program.

Narelys Chum, Troy High School Class of 2016, SUNY New Paltz Class of 2020.