When I first began researching programs for school psychology, I viewed the opportunity as an invitation to pursue my wildest dreams. Thus, I began applying to schools in Colorado, Arizona, and other areas I love. I began applying to PhD and EdS programs, since I reasoned that I already possessed a Master’s degree. As someone who has only lived in New Jersey, the chance for a new beginning is both exhilarating and intoxicating. However, to be honest, if I were accepted into the School Psychology program at New Jersey City University, it would be my first choice.
I know many people who have earned degrees at NJCU, so I am aware of the high quality schooling that the university offers – especially in the field of education. I know that the campus is exactly one and a half miles away from my apartment. I know this from the occasions which my morning run takes me down Kennedy Boulevard. If I were any other applicant, I would employ these 500 to 1,000 words to dawdle on in a sycophantic manner about your school in hopes that it will make my commute – and life – easier. However, that is not who I am. Instead, I will spend this time illustrating who I am as a person – my goals and objectives, where I come from and where I am going.
My resume and academic career almost makes it appear as if I am two completely different people – reminiscent of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. I first moved to Jersey City in 2012. Though I moved into a modest apartment, it was quite a step up from living out of my car and the basement apartment that came after. I was working at a restaurant, but I was depressed and overweight. All I had was my two cats that I adopted from the local shelter and my girlfriend, but she didn’t even like visiting me much because of how unsafe she felt in the neighborhood.
The years that followed represented my metamorphosis. During my time living in Jersey City, I worked my way up in the restaurant business: from server to bartender to assistant general manager. In spite of this, I came to the realization that I was shortchanging myself. I had much larger aspirations looming beneath the surface. Therefore, I quit my job and started tutoring, in hopes that it would lead to a career in teaching. Then, I was accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows, where I earned a Master’s degree in bilingual childhood education (with a 4.0 grade point average – more than making up for my mediocre GPA years ago as an undergraduate). I became a sixth grade teacher in The Bronx, where I have worked for the past three years. All of this while trying to get back in shape; when I switched careers, I also started running. I began with a half marathon. Then a marathon. Then came a fifty kilometer race in the mountains, followed by my first fifty mile race this past November. I still live in the same apartment with my two cats, but my girlfriend ended up moving in. And less than two months ago, she became my wife.
Yet, it’s not enough. My work and my transformation isn’t complete. My career goals mimic my life goals: to constantly push my boundaries and limits to become the best possible version of myself. This is why – after three successful years teaching in a public school in The Bronx – I have decided to switch concentrations and pursue an advanced degree in school psychology.
Early on in my teaching career, it became apparent that the students needed more support than what I was giving them in the classroom. It wasn’t just the learning gaps they were exhibiting – their reading and writing skills left a lot to be desired. Rather, it was their unstable situations at home that acted as roadblocks to any continual success in their development. Hence, I spent years helping students with their issues. Now, it’s time to put my talents and passions to full use.
As far as career plans go, the immediate goal is to become a Nationally Certified School Psychologist by completing an NASP approved program. After that, I absolutely loved working in a school setting. Thus, becoming a school psychologist after graduation would be my first step on this new career path. Still, I wouldn’t stop there. I’m also interested in pursuing a PhD or PsyD in psychology down the line. This would give me the flexibility to expand to my own clinical practice. Having my own practice would widen my reach and allow me to help more children than before. It would make it easier to reach communities and populations that I might not be able to serve otherwise. From there, the sky’s the limit: research, books, podcasts, etc.
I can – and will – accomplish this wherever I go. Though I previously compared the metamorphosis I experienced as both a scholar and a human being to that of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, it is far more accurate to make the claim that I am currently in the pupal stage and have not yet turned into a fully formed butterfly.
But if I don’t do it in Jersey City – where this all began – a part of me will feel empty. Working in The Bronx and teaching those students was great – but it wasn’t my kids, in my community. I want to give back to the city that has given me so much. I want to go to school here. I want to work here. And I want to live here. I want to help the children of Jersey City unearth the superhero that each one of them is capable of becoming – as I did.
My future is not yet written. But if I am accepted and given the chance to start writing it at NJCU, together we will be a part of history.