• All through junior high—heck, all my life—I had known that when ninth grade rolled around I was going to attend King High School. It’s just down the street from my house so I would be able to walk to school and back. However, all those plans changed when the eighth grade class at Cullen Middle School was called upon to assemble in the cafeteria one morning. “What is it now?” I remember thinking. “It’s probably another person from Reader’s Digest coming to tell us to sell stuff for them.” Little did I know this was the assembly that would change my life forever.

    When my class arrived at the cafeteria I made quick glances around the room, trying to get a sense of what the assembly was going to be about. To my pleasant surprise, I did not see a person wearing a smile faker than the monster in the Godzilla movies standing next to a long table buried under dozens of cheap prizes you could find at the dollar store. What I did see was a group of people standing in front of the stage, talking quietly. Among them were three kids that I remembered having seen at Cullen in previous years. I took a seat at a table with some friends of mine and while the teachers were busy trying to get everybody to sit down and be quiet we tried to figure out what the purpose of the assembly was. Finally, after several minutes, everything settled down and the assembly began.

    The first person to speak was Mrs. Rodriguez, the principal of Collegiate High School. Collegiate, as she explained, was a brand new school that gave students the opportunity to earn college credit by taking real college classes while simultaneously taking regular high school courses. The aim of the school was that when a student graduated, not only would they receive their high school diploma, but an associate’s degree as well. As soon as I heard “associate’s degree” my ears perked up like a dog’s when they hear their owner’s car pulling up in the driveway. Mrs. Rodriguez went on to explain the way things worked at Collegiate: the rules, the work, the high expectations, et cetera. After that the Collegiate students from Cullen answered a few questions. Most of the questions were about the college classes, the difficulty of the work, and the teachers. It was during this time that I realized that all my life I had been bored in school because I hadn’t been challenged enough. It was then that I decided that Collegiate was the school for me.

    Towards the end of the assembly Mrs. Rodriguez informed us of the process of being accepted. First, you had to fill out and turn in an application. After the applications were looked over by the Collegiate staff, they would choose the best ones and those kids would go through a screening interview. Then, the best ones from there would be put into a computer that would randomly select one hundred and ten students. These students would be the ones to go to Collegiate. When I learned that the students were chosen randomly I became determined to make sure that I at least made it to the computer stage. As the assembly concluded each student was given a packet of basic information about the school to take home and show their parents. All I could think about the rest of the day was Collegiate and how much I wanted to get in.

    After dinner that night I sat down with my parents and the packet of information I had picked up. Once they were finished looking everything over we talked about how great it sounded. We agreed that it was an amazing opportunity and that I should at least take a shot at it. So the next day I picked up an application from my counselor Mrs. Molina. When I got home I looked it over. The first part of it just asked you for your basic information; name, date of birth, social security number, and what not. This part I filled out quickly, but the second part asked you to write responses to two prompts. This part took me a few days, partly because I was trying to make sure that they were both perfect and partly because I was doing some serious procrastinating. Finally the application was done and I turned it in to Mrs. Molina. It was out of my hands now. All I could do now was be patient and see how things panned out. This, however, turned out to be easier said than done.

    Weeks go by and still no word about what’s going on. Finally, while sitting in class one day, a voice comes over the intercom and calls me to the office. “Now, either I’m in trouble,” I thought, “or this has something to do with Collegiate.” I walked to the office feeling very anxious. But alas, it was only the interview we had been informed of during the assembly. After conducting a short interview from Mrs. Saunders I was sent back to class, condemned to face another period of grueling uncertainty.

    Days go by and turn into weeks and still no word from Collegiate. I was so filled with pressure I felt I was going to explode if I didn’t soon find out if I’d been accepted or not. Imagine filling a tire with air until it was on the verge of blowing up. I kept telling myself that it wouldn’t be too much longer. That worked for about a day. Finally, while sitting in class doing my work, I get called to the office. Immediately my heart began to race and my whole body started to tremble. As I walked to the office I kept repeating over and over again in my head, “This is it. This is it.” After walking for what seemed like an eternity I finally reached the office, and all the waiting I had done became worth it when Mrs. Molina uttered those four life-changing words: “You’re going to college.”

    My heart leapt up into my throat. I couldn’t believe it. I had been accepted to Collegiate High School, the school of my dreams. After being congratulated once more by Mrs. Molina I headed back to class. If I could have done back flips all the way back to class, I would have. I felt like I could take on the world. As soon as I got back to my classroom I announced my good news. Everyone gave me their congratulations, as did everyone else that I told that day. When I got home I found that my parents already knew via a letter that had come in the mail that day. We were all ecstatic and that night my parents took me out to dinner in celebration.

    Now, as I look back and reflect on that whole experience, I do remember having some doubts. I even had some people try to convince me not to go…and I almost listened to them. I was constantly being reminded of how I would miss out on the high school experience and how I would have no free time to hang out with friends. Now, I feel like I’m getting a better experience than anyone at a regular high school. I’m happier than ever that I decided to turn in that application. I don’t even want to think about the way my life would have turned out had I not. Sure, I have a lot of homework and sometimes I get frustrated with the difficulty of an assignment. But all I have to do is think of how sweet it will feel to walk across the stage in 2011 and be rewarded with my diploma and that associate’s degree, and that’s all the impetus I need to motivate me to finish my work. And, to show my gratitude for the opportunity I’ve been granted, when I become a famous author one day I’ll be sure to include Collegiate High School in the dedications of all my books. I just hope that when those days come around, all the people at Collegiate—Mrs. Rodriguez, Mrs. Gonzalez, and all the teachers—will see those books in the stores, turn to the person next to them, and proudly proclaim, “Before this person got here, they were a mighty Collegiate Royal.”

    To think that all I had given Collegiate was an application and a five-minute interview. What Collegiate has given me in return is something more than I could ever have gotten from any regular school. Collegiate has given me hope for a future that doesn’t involve the phrase: “Would you like fries with that?” Collegiate has given me an opportunity to go places in life. Collegiate has given me the privilege of having great teachers that actually care about my future and well-being. And most importantly, Collegiate has given me a chance to use my mind for something that can be looked at and appreciated by the whole world.