The ruminations of a teenage college applicant can often sound callow. But not always. As many a college essay proves, such thoughts can be utterly inspirational. The same can be said of essays submitted by applicants to the Alumni Association LEAD Scholars Program.
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the program, we are sharing just a few of the many essays submitted. In this 10-part series, you’ll read of the experiences of those who come from relatively sheltered backgrounds to those who have had to deal with more than their share of adversity.
In this seventh installment, Angelina Palacios, ’19, recalls a lonely year during her childhood in Detroit when she was forced to live with relatives apart from her mother. Graduating this May, Angelina majored in biochemistry at U-M and will start medical school in the fall at Wayne State University.
When I was in the third grade, social services removed my siblings and me from our mother’s care. My childhood was suddenly gone, and I was given the responsibility to take care of myself. The five of us (my elder sister, two older brothers, younger sister, and me) were all sent to live at my uncle’s house. Before we left, my mother had a final remark for me, “Be a good girl.”
That year, I ended up living in three different distant relatives’ houses. I rarely saw my mother. Those first months with my uncle, we did not even have beds to sleep on. I was confused and wanted my bed in my home, but I did not cry or complain because I knew I needed to be “a good girl.”
My older siblings, all teenagers at the time, never wanted to hear my questions or play with me. At the start of that year, I decided not to let anyone know my distress because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me.
When I finally was enrolled in a school, I had already missed a whole semester. But I brought myself up to speed on everything I needed to learn and only asked the teacher for help when I could not find the answer in a book. I also decided to become independent from my guardians, whoever they were at the moment.
I kept myself confined in whatever space was mine at the time and only came out when I was hungry to make myself a sandwich. I put myself to sleep and did my homework without anyone asking me to study. I made it a goal to do anything I was capable of doing, totally on my own.
When I was finally returned to my mother after a year apart, I only had two siblings left and a broken home. My mother— not one to share emotions—never did ask me about my time away from her.
But the biggest obstacle I overcame that year was being alone. The experience made me realize that I can be independent of people and still be successful.
Of course, with more maturity, I now realize that there are people I can rely on and need. However, I will always look back at that time in my life and know how I was forced to grow up from the experience. My motivation for the future is to work as hard as I have to to be successful. With or without the help of anyone, I now know I will succeed.
The LEAD Scholars Program provides scholarships to black, Latino, and Native American students who have been accepted into the U-M. Visit umalumni.com/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.