On particularly hot summer days, my neighbors would break open the fire hydrant across the street from our apartment building to unleash torrents of ice cold water. Families and neighbors often gathered around in picnic chairs while chicken sizzled on grills and bachata echoed throughout our city block. My brother and I, with our noses stuck against the window of our fifth-floor apartment, would watch as we listened to the muffled rain of laughter from the children playing by the water. Small droplets would often splash against our window as if to tease us. “Why can’t we go downstairs and play with our friends?” we would demand of our mother, a woman who never budged from her strict Dominican household rules. “Hanging outside on the streets is for drug dealers and hoodlums!” she would fire back in Spanish.
Being young and full of curiosity, we did not dwell on the potential dangers lurking about our South Bronx neighborhood. One neighbor whom my mother fearfully referred to as a tecato (Dominican slang for drug addict) always made me smile through his jokes and compassion. The latter rang especially true when he helped me save two rabbits from our local butcher shop to keep as pets. Years later, to our horrific surprise, he was pushed off the roof of our apartment building during a drug related brawl. The same year, a childhood friend was fatally wounded in a drug robbery gone awry only two doors away. These are but a few of numerous tragic events that matured my perspective on my mother’s strict parenting. Today, most of the people we watched through our window are still trapped in the same environment, having fallen victim to the perpetual cycle into which so many in the community have stumbled.
Beginning in elementary school, I realized my only hope to break out of the South Bronx would be through education, an elusive catalyst. In a contrast that was revealing of its immediate priorities, my school did not provide many programs or updated books, instead they invested in newly installed metal detectors. The prevalence of violent crime made most after school activities an unattainable luxury. These neighborhood dangers and educational inefficiencies seemed impossible to avoid due to strict school zoning laws and limited resources. Despite these conditions, my resolve remained strong, as I knew I would one day overcome these obstacles.
One afternoon, I marched beside my mother into the office of a specialized high school in midtown Manhattan. Her English was mostly indiscernible, but her conviction was palpable. We pleaded that I, at least, be granted an interview for admission as a transfer student. After being denied our requests due to zoning regulations and the school’s overcrowdedness, I pleaded for one last consideration by handing over my art portfolio. The principal was hesitant to look, but upon sifting through my paintings and drawings, she expressed admiration admitted me into the honors art program that day. Two years later, I became the first in my family to graduate from high school and attend college.
I have only continued to ascend throughout college and into my professional career. Today, as I look outside the windows of my office and I see the Statue of Liberty at a distance facing a metropolis of opportunity. On bright sunny days, the Hudson River glistens like the cascades of water from the fire hydrant in my Bronx neighborhood. My unyielding desire for a better worldview has led me to pursue a legal career that I hope will help young women, sitting in the same tenement buildings where I once lived, have a chance to see the world from a different perspective.
I proudly embrace and draw on my diverse background in every corner of life. With my family’s support and my undying perseverance, I have transformed past adversities to my advantage, becoming a stronger and more resilient woman. As I have continuously demonstrated my ability to transcend limitations, I intend to apply the very same dedication throughout law school and into my legal career.