How Azzezat Siyanbola Beat the Odds

Azzezat Siyanbola recently graduated from Eximius College Preparatory Academy, where she was served by a College Advising Corps adviser.

“Make sure you get good grades, do well on the SAT’s, join multiple extracurricular activities, seek leadership roles, and write an extraordinary essay.” That’s what you learn at school assemblies, college presentations, and while researching college requirements. Yet, no one really tells you how to navigate the obstacles that high school throws at you or how to seek proper college guidance.

In the society we live in today, it is very easy for teenagers, like me, especially in the South Bronx, to lose focus and become another statistic. Students must overcome the challenges of peer pressure and face many individual obstacles. Some students experience harsh family conditions, such as poverty, homelessness, and abuse. Harsh environments may lead to depression and dropping out of high school. The select few who do make it past those hurdles are able to graduate high school and go on to either a two- or four-year college. Yet, it cannot be done alone.

I was lucky to overcome my environment. I had and still have a tunnel vision mindset. I only have one goal, and that is to succeed and enjoy whatever career I pursue. Through the highs and lows, the tears and restless nights, the gaining and loss of friends, and beating challenges, I graduated from Eximius College Preparatory Academy this past June. I received a reasonable score on my SATs and maintained approximately a 4.0 GPA. I participated in various extracurricular activities and held leadership roles in majority of them. I had met the necessary requirements for college but didn’t know how to apply to the school that was right for me, until I met with my College Advising Corps adviser. I am excited to share that I will be attending Barnard College in the fall.

Thankfully, my high school has an amazing partnership with NYU College Advising Corps. At the time of my senior year, Mr. Santos was on his second and last year as a college adviser at Eximius. He was by far the best college adviser a student could ask for. Being the outspoken young adult I am, I built a bond with Mr. Santos prior to my senior year and made sure that I stayed connected with him the summer before senior year. Mr. Santos offered the guidance that I needed. As an adviser, he was pragmatic and constructive. He prepped me for multiple interviews, edited approximately 20 pages of application supplements, and encouraged me to remain focused. Without his guidance and initiative, I probably wouldn’t know half the things I’ve learned from him. As a first generation college student, it was reassuring to have someone with so much knowledge to help me through the tough times of the application process.

Mr. Santos and College Advising Corps did not only guide me toward college, they also gave me the opportunity of a lifetime: attending the First Lady’s Beating the Odds Summit at the White House. The Summit was eye opening. The national Class of 2015, including myself, received some words of encouragement from both the First Lady and President Obama. The First Lady stressed the importance of not only getting into college but making it through in the right amount of time. No matter what struggle you face, it is possible to beat the odds through persevering and never settling for less.

I owe the whole experience to Mr. Santos and College Advising Corps for seeing something in me that made them give me the once in a lifetime opportunity. For that, I will continue beating the odds.