Getting In

You just saw four very young dreams come true. But its actually five.

I have wanted to produce this story since 2005. Starting in Seattle… with my handheld camcorder…I tried to convince local high schools to let me into their schools…and I tried to convince families…to let me into their lives.

Since no one knew WHO I was…and there were no tv station call letters behind my name…I’m sure I sounded like a criminal trying to sell THAT story idea. Probably….because no one agreed.

I tried again in California…no luck.

I follow college admissions trends for quite some time…I find the Fall tidal wave of admissions mania to be nothing short of a social phenomenon.

When I started this story…it wasn’t exactly an easy sell here. In fact, Laney was the only high school that really opened their arms to the idea.

Heather Todd (one of the counselors) helped me put the crew together. Back in September, I told her I needed a group of 4 Seniors…their very best…but I INSISTED that they be from VERY different backgrounds.

Why?

Because I wanted ANYONE from ANY socio-economic background to be able to watch this story and relate to at least one of them.

She created the group: Jules, Jared, Anthony and Lacrisha.

Jules

Jules is one-in-a-bazillion. She has an extraordinary personality and its ALWAYS on full power. She is an anchor on her school TV…she sings opera at the Macaroni Grill in Mayfair (go see her…and TIP her!)…singing…theater…if there is an opportunity to shine…Jules is there.

When I first met her she was dead set on UNC-Greensboro. Then she changed her mind to UNC Asheville…(and back and forth a couple hundred times in between). She got into both of them.

Jules’ parents were a HUGE help in getting those shots you saw. Her mother called me on a Saturday…when I was in my sweats…VERY excited about the letter that had just came from Asheville. We created a stealth plan to trick Jules…I showed up under a guise….her mother and I used hand signals to coordinate the ‘delivery’ of the letter…and while the camera was rolling…that big envelope “arrived.”

She let out quite a scream!

Her mother let out tears of joy in the background…and her father (who is a riot) kept commenting on “how much?! how much?!” Like all of the families…financial aid was a major decision-maker here…unfortunately…many of them STILL don’t know what the price tag is going to look like for the fall.

When I first met the Thompson family…her mother insisted…no matter the cost…they would work more or spend less…whatever it took to get Jules to Asheville.

Jared

Jared’s family feels like MY family now. I’ve seen them more than my own!

In the fall…Jared was dead-set on MIT…and there would be nothing stopping him except for the $$$. MIT, like many Ivy League schools is > $50,000 (without financial aid). Both of his parents work their tails off…but that kind of expense is just too much.

I was very surprised when, in October, Jared said he would take a year off to work if he did not get into MIT. That is a growing trend amongst college kids because the competition is just so steep.

As time went on…Jared began to delay sending off that MIT application. Unlike his other classmates who applied to 7,8….11(!) colleges…Jared was only going to apply to *2.* I think I was more nervous than he was!

I kept asking him about it…and he kept putting it off…until one afternoon his mother told me that he had trashed the MIT idea…and was applying to Carolina instead.

He’s happy now with the idea of going to Carolina. The idea of living far away (and the COST) had sunk in…and many of his friends will be in Carolina.

There is still a lot up in the air with the final details because Carolina has yet to send him information about financial aid…and Jared is responsible for ALL of his college expenses.

When you speak to Jared…you would never think he was a ‘high school kid.’ He is extraordinarily intelligent. He can hold a conversation on any topic you can imagine. Yet, he is SO personable…so outgoing. He’s a blast to be around and he was never camera shy.

No matter WHERE he goes…or WHAT he does…I would invest money in Jared’s future… you’re guaranteed a high rate of return. He can’t go wrong with that head on his shoulders….and Jared…the second I find a dime to spend…it’s yours!  🙂

Anthony

If I was to describe Anthony in one word it would be ‘dedication.’ 

If there is a school club…Anthony has joined it…and probably been an Officer in it. His studying is a 24 hour job…EVERY day of the week. Band…church…family…friends….he’s always on the go.

Anthony’s admissions process was the one that surprised me the most. When I first met his family at their home…I got the tour of the Chapel Hill themed bedroom. Blue…EVERYWHERE. Going to Chapel Hill has been Anthony’s dream since he was a tot.

After meeting him…after seeing all the work he does…I though Anthony’s story would be the ‘dream come true’ tale….but things changed.

Chapel Hill didn’t send the ‘big envelope.’ Instead…they sent an email…that they decided to defer him.

I can barely keep up with all this college lingo….deferred, wait listed…what’s the difference??

While I was at his house…we called Chapel Hill admissions…put them on speaker phone to try to figure it all out. The woman on the phone said that they just ‘hadn’t made a decision.’ He had applied early…and would now go into the waiting pool with the thousands and thousands of ‘regular’ candidates.

He asked what his spot was on the deferral list…no answer.

Things didn’t look good considering the numbers. Still…Anthony had hope. Then he was deferred…again.

He started to look at the numbers elsewhere. He applied to six schools total and was getting scholarship offers at all of them. Drexel was off the radar…$48,000/year….Wake Forest made him a sizeable offer too…but nothing was as good as N.C. State’s.

What was so encouraging about Anthony…despite  the let-down…Anthony KNOWS how talented he is and said, rather straight-forwardly…if Chapel Hill can’t see that…it’s THEIR loss.

I have to agree with him.

He hasn’t made up his mind as to what his course of study will be…probably in biomedical engineering or medicine. Whatever it ends up being…N.C. State has just scored themselves one rather remarkable future alumni member….

Lacrisha

Lacrisha is nothing short of inspiring. She has moved all across the country with her family…she has worked for everything she has…she has overcome obstacles that most of us will never face. And she does it all with grace and sincerity.

Howard was all-or-nothing for Lacrisha. She is brave…and she wanted to strike out on her own in a completely new city. Her grades were top-notch…but so are everyone else’s in the applicant pool at Howard.

Lacrisha told me her letter would arrive on December 16th. December 16th came…and went. Days…days…days……

I called Heather Todd at Laney….WHERE WAS IT!  The story wouldn’t work if I wasn’t there before the kids got their letters….I needed to get that once-in-a-lifetime reaction…good OR bad…but WHERE was the letter.

Finally it arrived (I’m sure Lacrisha was tied in knots by this time)…I got the call…flew to Laney…and they called Lacrisha down to the office. Once she saw me…she of course knew what the occasion was.

We were all THRILLED to see the acceptance and the hefty scholarship that came with it!

Lacrisha is very private…but she really opened up that day…no doubt she was overjoyed. You could see it in her eyes…she knew the world was at her feet…nothing was off limits.

It’s often said that when you have to work hard for something…you treasure it more. Nothing could be truer of Lacrisha’s story.

She wants to work in media (I’ve tried to convince her otherwise! 🙂 ) and also as a writer. She said she can now see herself working a full-time job…wearing a suit…taking care of herself…Ms.Independent.

Lacrisha…I am so proud of you.

 

This Saturday they will throw those caps high in the air….12 years of hard work over…still more to go….still just as excited…like its the FIRST day of school again.

I’ll be there of course…and I’ll probably be balling my eyes out with all the parents…..

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