Breakthrough New York is proud to announce their two Meringoff Scholarship recipients: Fiker Zewdie and Henderson Alcantara. Both students submitted essays about their experiences at Breakthrough and how the organization affected their educational trajectory. We’re so excited to celebrate them.

Check out Henderson’s essay:

How has your experience with BTNY prepared you for life after high school? This is your essay, told in your voice. If you’re looking for a way to get your mind warmed up, close your eyes and imagine the first day you began at BTNY. What was the difference between your life on that day and your life today? 

We all have had moments where we reflected on our past experiences and noticed that if they did not happen the exact way they did, everything would be drastically different, many times not for the better. This is my mindset when it comes to Breakthrough New York and the positive and invaluable impact they have had on my life.

I still remember my application process like it was yesterday. It was a cold February night and I was in the 6th grade. It was the 15th, meaning that it was the final day to apply to Breakthrough New York. I was feeling really discouraged to do so since I had just been rejected by a program similar to BTNY that I really wanted to get into. I remember how sad I felt when I found out I didn’t get into the other program even after giving my best effort and just being myself. Sitting down at my computer and looking at my BTNY application, I thought to myself, “What could be the worst that could happen if I applied? I will never know until I try!”. That night, I finished the application process and wrote an essay about a quote I still remember vividly and one which still has a significant impact and presence in my life today:“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” (Walt Disney) I truly believe that this was the night that I started living by this philosophy, having then and there made BTNY my new dream and having the courage to pursue it even if other attempts with other programs didn’t work out. That night was the start of Breakthrough changing my life for the better.

When I found out that I’d been accepted to BTNY, I gained confidence knowing that being myself was enough to warrant great opportunities. As I first went into summer programming, I met so many new people who would become friends, people who came from similar backgrounds and struggles as me, and was given a strong sense of community that I had never experienced before. I felt like I had just found a new home. My experiences, the people I met, and the individual and life lessons that Breakthrough was teaching us during summer and in-school programming, are things that I will never forget and that have shaped me into the person I am today.

The importance of community has been instilled in me by BTNY and I understand how much having mentors within a community is a valuable thing, so I strive to be a mentor for younger students that are part of my community. If I am able to help others feel comfortable and accepted within the communities I am a part of just like BTNY has done for me all of these years, that is all I can honestly ask for. I will keep practicing these community-building values that I have attained as I head off to college as a Posse Scholar this fall at Wheaton College where I will study business with the goal of becoming a financial analyst, play baseball for the school’s team, and work to be a leader of change on campus. I will also continue practicing my optimism and perseverance which have helped me overcome so many challenges in my life, whether it was the college process, academics, life situations, and more. I know these values will continue to help me far into the future and that they are a big part of what defines my character.

I believe everything in our lives happens for a reason: the good and bad, success and failure, and everything in between. These experiences make us who we are today, develop the values we believe in, and present us with opportunities to pursue. Reflecting on who I am today, I wouldn’t change my journey for the world. The influence Breakthrough has had on my life has helped me build the courage to pursue my dreams and I will continue practicing all these skills and values mentioned as I move onto the next chapter!

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