When NOT Listening To Your Teacher Is The Right Thing To Do: The Christopher Lawrence Story

As an educator, I never truly know the impact that I will have on my students. I just do my best; that’s my standard.  I am concerned, however, and for good reason, that all educators are not doing their best. Consider Christopher Lawrence, who grew up in South Jamaica, is currently a senior at Forest Hills High School, has been a worship leader at Freedom Hall Church of God Inc. for almost four years. My forever student values inclusion, honesty and community development. Yet he experienced harsh discouragement from one of his teachers about where he should apply to college.

Here is Christopher’s college essay submission to Emory University (his dream school) and, following that, his commentary.  

Christopher’s College Essay:

I can’t help but be fearful for the people in my community.

While I was attending a school in South Jamaica, Queens, teachers posted their fundraiser pages on the internet to afford things that the school should’ve provided like magazines and books. Pages of literature were copied in order to help save the money we barely had. My biology class had six cheap microscopes for a class of thirty. Our teachers had no way of effectively teaching without having to dig into their own pockets.

I think about the disadvantages that we faced and it burns a hole in my heart. For most of my educational career, I attended a school in a community that was encapsulated by poverty. I was not pleased with how inadequate my school was in providing me with the education that I needed, so I made the hard decision to leave my friends and favorite teachers and change schools.

I remember coming out of the train station and being stunned by what I saw in Forest Hills. Houses were huge. It almost felt like the home I lived in was nothing. Up to this day, I wonder how a typical family can live in a house with that many rooms. There are Audis and Mercedes-Benzs parked outside. A Pandora Jewelry, and Bed, Bath and Beyond opened up a couple months ago to accompany all the other stores in the neighborhood.

In Forest Hills High School (FHHS), we use microscopes in groups of three. I dissected a rat, eye, and brain – something my friends at my old school have not been able to do even up until their graduation day. Schools like FHHS were able to be in wealthy communities and still get great funding while my former school, Eagle Academy, located in a underprivileged community, barely had enough funding. I was frustrated thinking about the opportunities I had in FHHS, but not in Eagle Academy. I constantly denied the blessing of being in FHHS, but I slowly came to the conclusion that being here was the transformative experience I needed to grow as a student. I tried to talk of the injustices, but felt as though no one really understood me because I had experienced high school in an entirely different community than everyone else.

While I wasn’t able to take advantage of FHHS for all four years of high school, I made sure to make the best of it while I could to maximize my chances of getting into a great school. Although I believe that being at FHHS has given me more opportunity to grow and explore my talents and ambitions, I was upset that my brothers at Eagle couldn’t also be blessed with what I had in FHHS. I couldn’t understand how my brothers could’ve possibly been expected to compete with students that had been given opportunities far beyond what my friends could imagine. Most institutions believe that the playing grounds can be leveled by administering the SAT, but if these students weren’t able to even get an equal opportunity in the classroom, how could they have possibly as a scholar?

I desire no sympathy, but the equality in the education that I deserved from the day I was born.

Christopher’s Commentary:

This year has been so eventful for me. I went to China and met some of the greatest and brightest minds while learning Chinese. The strong students I met that fought along with me to learn as much Chinese as possible in the 7 weeks we were there. That was my first time traveling by myself and I literally went to the other side of the world. I became semi-proficient in my second language; however, the most eventful of all happened this December 13. I recall hitting “submit” on November 1 to my Early Decision choice. I was highly discouraged by an advisor in my school about writing the essay that I decided to write—I wrote about the inequality in the education system for black students in low income communities. It was all based on my experience at Eagle Academy and Forest Hills High School. (Yeah, I did that.)

The advisor told me that ”my essay needed to be thrown away.” He said I should’ve come to him for help because “with my SAT scores and GPA, there is no way I would get into this school.” He said “You have barely a 0.5% chance of getting into this school.” I had anxiety attacks and was momentarily depressed because of my belief in the poison that he was putting in my heart. With the counseling of my great SEO Scholars – New York City program manager, Monete Johnson, and my trust in GOD, I still hit “submit” with pride in my application. I settled for nothing less than I believed I deserved.

So Christmas came 12 days early this year. I was admitted into my top choice school December 13.

I can’t express how grateful I am to God for the powerful and positive influences he has placed in my life.

My great grandmother taught me never plan for Plan B because I would be stripping the integrity and my belief in Plan A. I didn’t do Plan B. RIP Sistah

My mother taught me belief in myself is better than the belief of anyone else in me. I believed in myself the entire time.

My father taught me God rewards those who are faithful to him. I will always remain faithful to God.

SEO taught me everything that I do is to benefit those who come after me. For that, I promise to value every action I do on my school’s campus to create a positive pathway for those who follow after me.

Vivett Hemans Dukes and Lakisha Odlum taught me that everything I do, academically, most show the integrity of those who have taught me down the line. I refuse to ever let you two down.

Jesse Leung can’t be forgotten. I’ve thanked God everyday since I hit submit for meeting you in SEO as a mentor. I didn’t even want to give Emory a second glance because I didn’t think I was worth it. Thank you for encouraging me to apply!

December 13, I cried my eyes out because I found out that I got accepted into Emory University. MY LIFE, BLESSINGS, and ANOINTING are all moving to Atlanta, Georgia in August of 2019.

If you read all of this, one thing I want you to remember is never to let someone else have a say over what you do in your life. Had I listened to that TOXIC teacher, I would’ve never gotten into the school that I have been dreaming of going to.


#emoryuniveristy #classof2023 #merrychristmas

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