Fatigued and eager for my shift to end, I glance at the clock above the fry station. Six hours down, two hours to go. I have flipped 237 hamburger patties today – although it feels more like a million. The 238th patty lands squarely on the grill. “Everybody get down!” yells a masked man. He points a silver revolver in my direction. I consider ducking, fleeing, diving, but I am paralyzed by fear.
I rarely feel safe in my crime-ridden neighborhood. Of my five closest childhood friends, one is a dropout and drug dealer, two are incarcerated, and the other two were murdered. However, thanks to education, my experience has been quite different. In the seventh grade, I received a scholarship to attend Chinquapin Prep, a college preparatory boarding school for at-risk youth. In addition to a first-rate education, Chinquapin afforded me the place to escape the hardships of my neighborhood, to grow, and finally, to feel safe. However, as an immature seventh grader with unrefined study habits, I was expelled after one semester.
Changed by my time at Chinquapin, I returned home a misfit. I spoke more proper English and spent my time reading and watching documentaries instead of squandering hours with my former friends, with whom I now had little in common. They said I was “too lame” to hang with them. I did not mind. I could not afford to succumb to the deleterious habits that I had watched claim their lives. My goals were to escape my wretched environment, to find positive friends, to feel safe again. So I reapplied to Chinquapin. Rejected initially, I worked more diligently, studied more
thoroughly and prayed more passionately than before for a second chance. After my third application, my prayer was answered.
I returned to Chinquapin with a new motivation – to secure a future with possibilities. The stakes were high. I participated in many extracurricular activities, and quickly rose to the top of my class academically. I grew spiritually and mentally; made long lasting, positive friendships; found my calling for entrepreneurship; and took on many leadership roles on campus. Most of all, I felt safe again.
With my initial goals accomplished, I adopted new ones. I dream to be an international businessman; to create the world’s first cost-effective desalination tank; to play professional basketball overseas; to be president of the United States. With God and education, I feel that there is little I cannot accomplish.
But, between patties, working the night shift, with the robber’s gun pointed at me, my fate seems uncertain.
My heart beats rapidly. Sweat drips down my forehead. I tremble as his eyes bore into me. I am afraid, not only of death, but also that my education and my ambitions will die with me – that my struggle and my growth will have been in vain. I am humbled by my past, proud of my present, and profoundly hopeful for my future. With this in thought mind, I pray, “Lord let me live.”