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Cumberland County Schools graduate college admissions essays – The Fayetteville Observer

These Cumberland County high graduates are headed off to universities after graduating this spring. Here are the college admissions essays four of them shared with us.
The bright fluorescent lights of the auditorium radiated down on me. I was sweating profusely through my light blue tie-dye T-shirt.  It felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. I looked into the audience of no more than 30 people, but I felt like I was standing in front of an entire stadium. I should have been focusing on the speech I had to deliver; however, my thoughts ran rampant: “What are they possibly thinking about me? Why is this Black girl with box braids up here addressing us? Who does she think she is?” My stomach was churning in anticipation of the unknown, but I welcomed the feeling of exploring this unchartered territory. I just was not expecting the dead silence. I knew eventually this moment would come, but never like this.  
I am bi-racial. I have African American and Native American parentage. I grew up in a predominantly Black community and that was my culture and lifestyle. That is not to imply that I did not acknowledge ‘my Native-ness’ but, I never really explored my Native history or culture like my other Indigenous peers. Quite frankly, I never embraced this part of my heritage because I believed that I did not look ‘Native enough.’ I wear my thick curly hair in protective styles like box braids and cornrows. I take pride in my toffee complexion and ‘pretty’ brown eyes.  
When I was younger, because of my physical characteristics, I faced what I felt was discrimination. I could tell that some people thought I wasn’t ‘Native enough.’ Because of this, some chose to not welcome me into the local Native community. They had succeeded. For many years, I devalued my ‘Native-ness’ and walked away from that aspect of who I am. 
Fortunately, over the last three years, I have connected with many Native Americans from the Lumbee and Haliwa-Saponi tribes. This association has led to me being elected to serve as the secretary of the North Carolina Native American Youth Organization (NCNAYO).   
Cumberland County Schools’ Indian Education Office was a driving force behind my quest to learn more about my culture. Through their continuous guidance, I was “volun-told” for many amazing opportunities, which have given me the privilege of learning and socializing with a large number of my Native American peers who share my culture, my struggles, my joys, and my love for sowing into our community. And through these interactions, I have met Natives whose skin tones have ranged from the lightest ivory to the deepest mahogany.   
One day, I stood at the sink washing my hands, when it hit me. Being Native is a “spectrum.” Your racial and cultural identity is not negated by your physical features. I must have left the water running for a good five minutes while thinking of all the years I had deprived myself from exploring more of who I am because of one or two unfortunate interactions with someone who pushed their ideologies off on me. My world was completely rocked! After almost 10 years, my idea of there being a Native archetype was debunked. 
So, as I stood there preparing to deliver my speech in front of the audience filled with only Native Americans, I realized I was finally presenting ‘my authentic self’ to the community from whom I had once craved validation. I did not know what response to expect while standing at the podium. But, when I looked up after finishing my speech, I was met with explosive clapping coming from a rainbow of beautiful people. It made my heart happy. I had been fighting an internal conflict, but it was a necessary part of me stepping into who I am … into who I had always been. 
Jordan Moyd is a 2022 graduate of Cross Creek Early College High School. She wrote this essay for her college applications. She is dually enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program and majoring in molecular biology and public policy. 
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I truly wish to attend your University. There is a list of reasons on why I would like to attend your campus. First of all, I love that your school is a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Second on the list is that it is located in the State of Maryland. Lastly, is because of the spectacular programs it offers. Morgan State is everything that I like in one school. 
To explain one reason more thoroughly, an HBCU is a big deal for me when it comes to attending college. It shows that the university is built on minority success, to be specific on Black success. Being around a campus like that is a good environment for me to be surrounded by these next four years. Knowing that your school is 150 years old sits right with me. It tells me that the university has been doing well for so long and is still in good condition. Looking at the college from an outside point of view it definitely seems four years’ worth my while! 
The state of Maryland is a place of comfort for me. Growing up, I loved being in the DMV (Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia) area. Personally, Maryland is the state that I’m more connected to. I used to live in Anne Arundel County for a year and I absolutely loved it. The people were so kind and welcoming, but also genuine. It didn’t take very long to make friends and become comfortable with the area. Even down to the weather, I like that the state offers four seasons. With that being said, I mean that Maryland gives you hot summers but also cold winters and if you’re lucky even snow. Having a university [centered] around the things I like to do and enjoy, matters to my choice of a college. 
Having a variety of options to choose from is great for an undergraduate student. We don’t 110% know what we want to do. So having a wide range of options helps with us choosing something within our range of scope. I love science so seeing that you provide a Biology Bachelor’s program is something nice to see. 
I hope this essay was informative but also convincing in letting you know a little about what I like in college life. 
Mikayla Bassett is a 2022 Graduate of E.E. Smith High School. She wrote this essay for her application to Morgan State University, where she plans to major in biology.
Membership in the Boy Scouts of America program has exposed me to countless extraordinary opportunities for personal growth. One particularly excellent opportunity was my participation in a 50-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail.  
I chose to hike the Trail to complete a requirement for the Hiking Merit Badge; however, there were far greater benefits from the expedition. Although the hike itself dominates my memory, the preparatory stage was of equal significance. Preparing for the journey involved hiking trails of increasing difficulty to build endurance and experience. This process taught me the value of systematic goal execution. Although I possessed many eager thoughts, I would have undoubtedly failed the 50-miler without this gradual training.  
The hike itself entailed a myriad of self-revelations. The first day of hiking was on a steep grade in the scorching sun. Thundering clouds collected and dumped water on my troop in the evening like a waterfall from the stars. My gear, food, and clothing quickly became drenched. Arranging my tent, eating my soaked supper, and rolling into a wet sleeping bag was agonizing, especially following a day of strenuous hiking. Despite our meager conditions, my troop began to sing and tell scary stories. Cold, hungry, and slightly homesick in our collapsing tents, we turned to one another and smiled. At that moment, I was struck by the irony of the situation and learned this comforting lesson: the darkest of times are lightened by good company. As the sky cried and trees groaned with the wind, my troop filled the forest with the ringing of laughter. 
Although I was unaware, my next lesson came soon after the second. Shortly into the hike, my father became ill, and he needed to leave the expedition. I accompanied Grant, my brother, and my father to a nearby hotel for his recovery. Determined to complete the journey, I arranged that Grant and I be transported to a checkpoint one day ahead of the troop with the intent of hiking backward to reach the group. The following morning, Grant and I began our hike toward the troop. Soon into the trek, the weather conditions became torrential. The precipitous nature of the trail, lack of adult supervision, and severe rain significantly disturbed Grant. He insisted that we return to the original checkpoint. Desperate to reach the troop and reluctant to undo the day’s labor, I argued the case that we should continue. However, no pressure could convince Grant, and he began wandering toward the original checkpoint. Disgusted with Grant’s ‘cowardice,’ I continued along the trail away from my brother. It was during these minutes of solitary exertion that I obtained my apprehension of the situation. Perhaps the freezing rain cleared my mind or my sudden worry for Grant’s safety quenched my anger. Whatever the cause, I realized that no amount of “lost honor” for retreating from my objective was worth the endangerment and misery of my younger brother. Following this recognition, I turned around and rapidly began hiking toward my beloved brother. Eventually, I approached my brother and accompanied him to the original checkpoint. The following day, on a clear, bright morning, we rejoined the troop.  
These three lessons are only a few of the copious principles that the 50-mile hike taught. I have diligently sought to emulate these principles in my daily life in all my words, deeds, and thoughts. For example, when planning academic and extracurricular projects, I divide labor into obtainable steps. During challenging times, I remember to spend time with family and friends to lighten my mood. And more than anything, I recall the lesson I learned that dreary afternoon when I nearly abandoned my brother which was to elevate my family above all other obligations. If I can learn such fundamental principles from a week of physical activity, I can only imagine the lessons awaiting me in the mentally arduous world of university. 
Jefferson Skinner is a 2022 Graduate of Cross Creek Early College High School. He wrote this essay for his admission to college. In the fall, he will be, traveling throughout Argentina for two years. He will then attend Brigham Young University in Utah and major in chemistry.
Traveling to the Dominican Republic with EF Tours, my mother, and members of my 8th-grade class sparked a period of personal growth and greater understanding of myself. One of the stops on this trip was an all-girls’ orphanage called the Mariposa DR Foundation. Some of the girls were orphans. Most of them were girls of Haitian descent not afforded the securities of food, shelter and education unless the parents relinquished their daughters to the orphanage.  The relationship we were quickly able to attain by traveling with EF Tours, watching my mother interact with the girls, and observing the behaviors of my classmates gave me a chance to see myself and who I want to be.  
EF Tours has a standing relationship with the Mariposa DR Foundation. They take people with a spirit of volunteerism to help make the orphanage a comfortable place to live. We ate lunch with the girls and during recess we played and took the opportunity to get to know them better.  While the girls were in class, we put a fresh coat of paint on a wall and continued a mural other volunteers had started. The EF Tours’ role gave me a chance to feel good about the help I had contributed. Upon further reflection I realized that they, as an organization, have given these girls more positive interactions, experiences, and memories than I had.   
My mother was one of the chaperones for the group.  Upon arriving at the orphanage, she immediately stepped in to participate in all the activities. I was very interested to see the girls gravitate toward her with her awful attempts to speak her broken Spanish. An activity my mother showed the girls was double Dutch jump rope. She turned the rope while I showed them how to jump. The girls really enjoyed themselves. They then encouraged my mother to jump. We were all impressed. Once the rope finally caught her ankle, we all clapped, and some of the girls gave her a tour of their artwork while practicing their English. Watching my mothers’ interactions showed me that good intentions can wane any perceived language, cultural, or religious barriers. 
When the opportunity to go on this trip arose, 30 signed up but only seven attended. I was shocked at the behaviors of some of my classmates as we navigated through this third-world orphanage. Seeing classmates express to the staff their discomfort, due to the heat on the island and lack of A/C in some parts of the building, was appalling. Hearing complaints that we could not brush our teeth with tap water or flush tissue down the toilet was disturbing. While touring the surrounding area, comments made on the level of poverty they were witnessing were shameful. The looks on their faces were very upsetting to me. Luckily for me, my mother was on this trip with me, so I had to be more aware of how I interacted with the locals. I hope that I would have behaved the way I was raised, which was to be appreciative to my hosts, to be aware that there are many standards of living, and that I was a guest.  
My experience at the Mariposa DR Foundation made me see that I was also on a journey toward a better life. At age 13, I did chores for an allowance while others cleaned houses for a living. I am balancing high school classes with college courses, while others are trying to get a basic education. I have learned not to minimize my own journey, but to make sure that I am taking advantage of the opportunities that I have been given. I have grown to accept people where they are on their individual journeys. Everyone’s path to success is unique. Just because an individual’s path may not be as difficult as another’s, it is still a path to a desired future. 
Isatou Kah is a 2022 graduate of Cross Creek Early College High School. She wrote this essay for her admission to college. She is attending N.C. State University in the fall and majoring in nutrition on the pre-med track.

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