"On My Slate," by: Jessica Charles

Updated: Jan 9, 2019

Jessica Charles is a senior at Marist and this is one of her college essays. She submitted it to various universities this December with HOPE for warm reception and a bright future.

Everyone’s life starts off as a blank sheet of paper. We begin with no selfhood, identity, or idea as to who we will become. Later on opportunities are given to some, while others have to pave their own way. For one moment however, we are all a sheet of blank vellum waiting to fill up. I now have the opportunity tell you what is on my slate, to narrate the experiences that helped create my unique identity and made me the person I am today.

At six years old I was forced to grow up.

In one moment, my mother and I were walking home together and in another, a bright red and blue flashing ambulance took her away. My mother had endured a mental breakdown.  Ever since then, I slowly started to become independent. I knew this would be a permanent marker in my life story. After that, I started living with my aunt and uncle. While I was born and raised in the United States, my father was still living in Haiti. I often traveled back and forth from the U.S. to Haiti with my mom but after she was hospitalized, the trips stopped. The word “dad” became foreign to me. The word “mom” became hard to say. These circumstances shaped my identity. With every award I receive, every volleyball I spike, and every “A” I earn, I reflect on that moment when I was six years old. I am reminded as to why I am so motivated to be better, do better, become something that my mother never had the chance to be. Furthermore, I want to make the most of the opportunities my aunt and uncle have provided me with. I aim to prove to them that their sacrifices have not been wasted on me. I yearn for success and without that desire, I do not know who I would be right now.

Being Haitian in America is another major aspect of my identity. Being an American with a dark complexion, I had to learn to be confident in my own skin. I was not always courageous enough to embrace my true self in a sea of people who did not look like me. I used to conform myself to fit into the world’s conventional standards.  Whether it be how I did my hair or shying away when I noticed I was one of few people of color in my classroom, I did not embrace my own identity. Until I learned more about my heritage, the history of African Americans and the social injustices we have endured, I was unaware as to what it truly means to be dark-skinned. I realized that by changing myself, in a sense, I disregard everyone who looked like me.

I struggled with my sense of self throughout my high school career. However, as a senior, my understanding of who I am and who I want to be is beginning to take shape. While it is clearer now, it is not yet solidified. At this moment, I am a senior who could rave about the latest “Avengers” movie but find it difficult to answer questions about my career goals.

Nevertheless, my upbringing has intensified my need to succeed in whatever path I follow.

Everyone has at least one significant event which can impact their lives, for the better or for worse. In the best cases, it fuels some people's purpose, builds character, drives accomplishments, and feeds their passions.

I am one of these people.

I am Jessica Charles.

No longer six, I am in charge of my destiny.

© Melida Rodas 2018   Web Developer / Writer / Multimedia Artist