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Narelys Chum

First Place Winner
Scholarship Essay Contest, 2016
Narelys Chum
Troy High School

First place winner Narelys Chum Troy High School

Narelys's video is part of a THS Word workshop event that took place on Black History Day at Troy High School this spring. THS Word is a Writing Workshop that allows writers, poets, lyricists, rappers, artists to come together in an environment where they feel safe enough to share, improve, and perform their original works. The Workshop promotes active literacy, critical thought, and positive social dialogue across boundaries of age, race, class, gender, culture, and sexuality.

Planting Change

The city of lights and beauty is what others think of when they hear "New York City," but the great NYC isn't to me what it is to others. Fear was anticipated as the sounds of gunshots, fights, and yelling were ever present back in East Spanish Harlem. I grew up in what others would call the "hood" or "ghetto." I was only five years old when I hid behind that shelf near the closet. It took me a while to realize that, not only was that a description of my neighborhood environment, but also my home life. Being a small child, I spent too many hours miserably alone, sad, and physically hurt because abuse was common. My home was run by the dictatorship of my father who showed that only pain was the purpose of my life. Outside my home was no escape. I walked in fear every day — afraid of my life being taken, surrounded by too many street corner gang fights, screams, and too many people with tattooed teardrops on their faces. That's what Google Images of the great NYC do not show or tell.

Even schools were nightmares, just buildings with no structure. They consisted of teachers who already gave up on their students for factors unrelated to their potential, just like my Kindergarten teacher who told me that I wouldn't be successful at the age of four because I'm Latina and Asian. So after being surrounded by violence and hatred both inside and out of my home, I thought that my life was normal. I thought my feelings of discrimination were appropriate, as I didn't know what was morally right because I wasn't shown otherwise. After years of being left to fend for myself, I began to question the world that surrounded me; I looked at the people of Harlem and realized that I didn't want to continue being miserable and ending up like them, not content with life.

At age twelve, I was promised power as I was asked to join gangs, and instead of agreeing, I refused. I take pride in that decision because it took a lot of personal and mental strength to make that choice since my home life involved abuse, and outside of it involved hatred and anger. All I wanted was power; to make others feel the pain I felt, and to feel like I had a say in something in my life. Yet I refused to use my hurts to feast on the misfortune of others despite how much I wanted to. I chose to change my thinking of discrimination and negativity because the world had enough of that already.

Having already been labeled by society as a soon-to-be failure, it was expected that I, too, would become yet another one of those people who continued a vicious cycle of poverty, hatred, and violence. Yet, I chose not to let that define me, I stood my ground and decided that I would fight to rise above everything that society told me I would become, by choosing success through my school work, but also through refusing to participate in negative actions involved in my environment. I kept pushing forward to get out of my home and out of my neighborhood environment. Like many others, I came from dirt ground, times of extreme hardship both inside and out of my home. Yet I fought for a way out, and if I couldn't see a way out, I found one, and if I couldn't find one, I made one. I didn't find beauty in city lights, but instead I found beauty in rising above the vicious cycle of pain, hatred, and violence. I'd like to consider myself as a great example of, as Tupac Shakur, the great rapper and poet would call it, "A rose that grew from concrete."

THS Group Photo

Narelys Chum will enter SUNY New Paltz this year as a student in the class of 2020.