For DonorsFor Applicants
user profile avatar

Julio Villegas

14495

Bold Points

27x

Nominee

3x

Finalist

2x

Winner

Bio

Son of refugees, adamant on honoring the sacrifices of my ancestors from the Caribbean and West African coastlines through my capacities for language; poetry, rapping, essays, & speeches to reshape how we view the canon of both contemporary and Latin American literature. I have photos of Gabriel García Márquez, Kobe going up against Jordan, the Puerto Rican independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos (first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard, would have been valedictorian had it not been for institutional racism), the Mexican authorities Octavio Paz, Da Vinci, and Einstein playing a violin all taped onto my bedroom wall, a series of faces I consult when I wake and right before I sleep. I aspire to these heights, and speak with each one through prayer, as if they were my guiding mentors. I wish to represent the literary/artistic tradition of Essex County, New Jersey, and ultimately write my way up to a platform where I can make an argument with my local & state representatives to put forward a bill reinstating the Poet Laureate position once more for the State of New Jersey. I'm hungry, I'm restless on this realization, and from the core of my humanity I will appreciate your belief in me. I wish to make even the most jaded, dejected souls believe that this life is worth another attempt at a day. It's a disproportionate & often-tolling responsibility, and I understand that I don't need to be doing any of this, but it's because I've known this apathy — anger and depression aimed towards everything within and outside of you — that I aspire for our better futures. Bless.

Education

Essex County College

Associate's degree program
2024 - 2026
  • Majors:
    • Classics and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, General
  • Minors:
    • Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management
    • Anthropology

Emerson College

Bachelor's degree program
2015 - 2019
  • Majors:
    • Film/Video and Photographic Arts
  • Minors:
    • Rhetoric and Composition/Writing Studies

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Master's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • American Indian/Native American Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics
    • Sociology and Anthropology
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Arts

    • Dream career goals:

      Editorial Assistant, Editor, Editor-in-Chief, NJ State Poet Laureate, Pulitzer author, & the paradigms of contemporary poetry and rapping pushed into distinct spheres through this winding path. Solitude is immense, but necessary.

    • Front-End Runner/Courtesy Booth/Self-Checkout /Cashier

      Shoprite
      2020 – 20211 year
    • Busser/Food Runner/Server

      Mooncusser Fish House
      2018 – 20202 years
    • Campus News Reporter

      Emerson Today
      2015 – 20194 years

    Sports

    Skateboarding

    Intramural
    2007 – 201912 years

    Archery

    Club
    2014 – 20206 years

    Awards

    • Rookie Sharpshooter

    Soccer

    Intramural
    2007 – 20158 years

    Research

    • Student Organizing & Activism

      POWER (Protesting Oppresion With Educational Reform) — Press Correspondent, Editor-in-Chief of online journal.
      2016 – 2019

    Arts

    • Muzzle Magazine

      Creative Writing — Poetry
      2016 – Present

    Public services

    • Advocacy

      NAACP — To speak my truth & make it back in time for my Speech final.
      2016 – 2016
    • Volunteering

      American Red Cross — Blood Donor Ambassador
      2012 – 2019

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
    It’s jarring figuring out which statistic you want to be. Do you wish to be in the peer-reviewed reports and keynote lectures professing how our early environments and schooling conditions doomed us to certain outcomes? Or on the podcast guest detailing the tolls of immigrant and first-gen families navigating a nation that’s been ever-confused in its own identity as one? It’s jarring — because once you receive a diagnosis, you sometimes manifest the symptoms which weren’t there after subconsciously identifying yourself as an illness, a problem to be solved, a statistic waiting its designation. I grew up in Essex County, New Jersey. I attended a high school open to all of its residents. 99% students of color; more than 80% of students on free or reduced lunch. I’ve grappled with a lot, including two intense bouts of suicidality — one at age 7, the other at age 17. What stopped me in both instances was a black-and-white flashing image of my younger sister, my best friend throughout childhood and adolescence. At both ages, I weighed the long-term consequences that a completed attempt would have had on her and my immediate family members, resolving that I would have been no better than my father and there would have been more attempts down the road. This is as far as I go talking about my direct, personal experiences with my own mental health — the purpose of this essay is to honor those unknown battles of my school friends, mentors, and role models. J. Cole has a line in his track “‘03 Adolescence” where he goes, “You everything I want to be that’s why I [mess] with you / So how you lookin’ up to me when I look up to you?” — it froze me and later made me cry as the track progressed. There was this student named Daniel one class above mine; known each other since elementary. In every sense of the word, he was a star student — first to be allowed to write with a pen, advanced reading and math classes, cursive was immaculate, loved magic tricks, playing instruments, Green Day, a true model of discipline and personality for all of us in the school. While away from Jersey one summer, I receive word that he died. And those Cole lyrics came right into my mind. Suicide. The lunch lady in high school who would give me an extra snack, or help with my fee if I couldn’t pay? The summer after graduating, she was killed alongside her 10-year old daughter by her partner in a double-murder suicide. And you would’ve never known. As I write this, it’s been about three weeks since a friend of mine who I recently contacted to check in after a while calls me in the morning as I’m making breakfast, saying they just took a handful of pills and are locked in their apartment bathroom alone — as her mother was flying in to help her move back home and attempted the same two nights prior. I coached her for an hour to vomit them back up; she’s now back home in recovery. To see our county lines internalized as diagnoses without cure. It needs to be understood that we’re living in dysfunctional times, adapting to dysfunctional environments. Chronically. I’ve witnessed the slow vanishing of hope behind my mother’s forced smiles. It’s downward glances when asked of the American Dream. A perpetual waiting— uncertain for what. And the collateral from this uncertainty manifests generationally: living in pure fight-or-flight or functional freeze, burned out, alienated from self, and fighting the guilt and shame one descends into while grappling their patterns. And the healing begins with connection — a (re)connection with your authentic self, a connection with the willingness to seek connection, and acceptance of the worthiness of getting to try again. And then we shift from self to the community, the tribe. What grievances do you see unspoken? Disregarded? Unacknowledged? What insights and gifts have you discovered in your own path which can serve as beacon for those searching for their north stars? Perhaps the bliss is in the devotion of finding out. Cultivating a brief enough confidence to go through in sharing a vulnerable, personal expression with others in a space where there’s willingness to receive and do the same. A truly witnessing, transformative, and affirmative experience that moves something of your child self to tears and stirs an equal desire to compart this joy with others. The joy could look like sadness, anger, sleep or any other “non-joyous” expression, but in reality it’s deep joy and release in feeling safe to reclaim your sadness, anger, and rest — no longer identifying with them as your finality. I wish to leave great works for the community I love. Whether it be a short film, a book of poems, music, editorial work, or simply studying the faces of the souls beside me and wondering how they might truly be feeling. Nothing is ever in vain, and there’s always a story to tell. I grapple with survivor’s guilt and imposter syndrome daily, yet still hold firm to my belief that authentic self is worth expression, a place in this vast cosmos. In normalizing and bringing to consciousness that it’s okay to not be okay, the parts of our inner selves we might feel disconnected from serve as a potent wellspring for inspiration, motivation, joy, and grace. I refuse to live a life where my loved ones are predetermined as case studies. Another set of lines that revisit me belong to Rumi: “Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.” Here I stand on the soil of Essex — the roots connecting deep, in preparation for the branches that shelter and fruits which yield. A tree in this uncertain soil we could also look up to. A survival’s survival.
    Hazel Joy Memorial Scholarship
    My older brother died from a heart attack while comatose on Mother’s Day 2019. I won’t pretend that he and I were close; the scant few years that we lived under the same house, he was very angry and frequently took it out on me. Yet still— two things sat on my mind after receiving the news: his two children of preschool age, and the truly indifferent, unpredictable nature of this cosmic wheel of fortune all of our lives operate underneath. I was my younger sister’s brother, as well as her father, as well as my mother’s spouse, as well as the man of the house, as well as a young boy, as well as someone who wanted someone to be the same for me. Throughout childhood and adolescence, you don’t really notice the compounding of these premature roles. It was in my early to mid 20s — living out on my own, far away from everyone, when I received the call from my estranged father who I hadn’t spoken with in years — that the confused child in this seemingly high-functioning adult body came back into awareness, feeling helpless again. Grief and suffering is inextricable from the human condition, but you have every right to put aside the “everything happens for a reason” slogans and feel furious towards the outcomes of lives who changed for the better, operated through selflessness, brought joy, safety, inspiration to others and deserved nothing but blessings, continued growth, and most importantly (to me) a lesser-savage exit from it all once the time for it came. No amount of Stoic, Buddhist, Catholic, nor existential teachings and philosophies could have disciplined me for a room of grieving family and friends, all staring at this same premature casket. None of it could have prepared me for their projections of my dead brother onto me during those few days as mechanisms for processing their grief— at further disruption towards my own inner peace. In spite of it, it must be remembered that the depth of one’s grief is relative to the depth of one’s love. 5 years have passed since then, and his death has brought a number of positive changes in family relations that otherwise might not have occurred. Firstly, the relationship with my father has been re-established, being that I’m now the only living son out of his six children. Secondly, I got introduced to more members of his side of the family, as well as being able to return to my home of Puerto Rico for the first time in many years. It was bittersweet because this was off the aftermath of Hurricane Maria; a lot of damage was still visible. But in the midst of darkness and strife, the genius of human spirit is that it still finds a fire to kindle. It finds the tribe, calls forth the community. It knows we cannot process any of this alone, no matter how vehemently we wish to convince ourselves of it cognitively. It’s to be vulnerable and received. Thirdly, it intimately gave me something to represent in the works I create and heights I aspire for— a primordial fire to channel throughout. Nothing in this life is ever in vain. We have a responsibility to be the transistors for those no longer here, the vessels which the love speaks through. I look at the sky and wonder how many loved ones are staring back. I find them in my dreams. I know they’re with me. And it’d be silly if at my big age I’d allow my brother to clown me one more time.
    Level Up Scholarship
    More than 20 years later, I still have my PlayStation 2. 19 years later, I still have my original copy of Kingdom Hearts II — hanging in a clear disc sleeve on the corner of a cracked James Dean portrait with the quote, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” More than 20 years later, as a literal child processing what had just happened in New York on September 2001 — and whether or not I consciously realized it — the world of video games offered me role models and alternate worlds to escape into within a backdrop of events no child nor adult could have possibly conceived would be one's immediate reality. To this day, I still cry when I hear any of the soundtracks from the Pokémon Red, Blue, Gold, Ruby, or Emerald Version games. To this day, I still play the Kingdom Hearts soundtracks to reconnect with that sense of genuinely mystic awe I felt first playing a game like that — in contrast to what I had known prior on the PS1. You knew it was love, because I didn’t have a memory card for my first console and had to start gameplay over every time, spending even more time with it, in order to encounter something new. I never complained. Video games and anime were my coping mechanisms, yes, but they were also my best friends and teachers. To say that any game could induce and promote violence was an empty argument for me, because realistically, for a good lot of us growing up, it was the medium to best release our frustrations out onto simulated environments. The Smackdown vs. RAW series, the Ratchet and Clank games, leveling up your Pokémon team and tailoring them for efficiency against a trainer that’s been getting the best of you over and over, until that one day — a lot of meaningful time, strategy, resilience, expression of self, and release was derived from these games. My eyes are tearing up just writing about this. The first images of Kingdom Hearts, where Sora is standing on these stained glass circles of varying Disney characters, or of himself with his friends, floating in this seeming abyss with holy-sounding choral music as the backdrop, is a fundamental image within my psyche I often return to when life feels overwhelming. These games were my closest friends, my older brothers when I, the oldest sibling, needed an older sibling in a house absent of a father. I owe my life to both video games and anime. Anyone who's played these aforementioned titles can attest to a meaningful connection with their stories and characters: that a part of who we are presently could not have been possible without them. They saved a lot of us, whether or not we realized it. And when it’s all said and done, regardless of whichever artistic medium I undertake, my ultimate respects paid is to leave you something that, many years from now, you’ll remember who you were before and who you became after encountering it. Right now, there’s another child discovering their favorite game. The greatest respect we can collectively pay is to never abandon that child within us who also felt that first awe.
    Reinaldo Jiraud Memorial Scholarship
    My grandfather was the only child out of his eight siblings to have known what the inside of a school in Cuba looked like. He was the only one to have studied in both a primary and secondary school, and he was the only one that was audacious enough to imagine a life outside of the campos — a family in a city, a family with a home that refused to submit to either hurricanes or revolutions, a family that fully dissolved the concept of a border. The blood that flows within all of us is the blood of campesinos, of understanding that the ground beneath us can still yield a fruit regardless of the devastation that has repeatedly swept across the plots — to the point where it is deemed almost-miraculous that anything can still grow in the presence of a seeming desolation. The reason why it is still possible to harvest something from impossibility is because the roots underneath the ashes always remained. The years then passed, and as we grew up within the American society and pop culture, alongside other first-generation children of immigrants from across the world, we started to realize that aspects of our own individual identities had become Americanized. This is where one of the greatest knives of being a child of immigrants sunk itself directly into the marrow of my bones: Neither America nor the land of your cultural origin will ever accept you as a whole. It was at a birthday party for one of my friends around 8th grade that this sentiment bore its weight upon me all at once — my mother casually stated to me that she would not have been able to discern my Spanish from that of a gringo had she not known that it was my voice. Being the fact that my friend’s mother, who was herself a Panamanian immigrant, also voiced the similar sentiment for both me and her son, the lingering sensations that I had felt throughout all of my years growing up in New Jersey as Puerto Rican-Cuban collectively became immediate once I was told that the language I first learned can now only be spoken with a secondhand adequacy. Language is not the only aspect relative to the navigation of America’s streets and schools, but for me personally as a first-generation child, when I lost the mother tongue that connected me to the land and people that I was here to represent, to cast some semblance of a better light upon, that deeply unnerved me like nothing else. It was at that point that I fully realized that my existence within America is to demonstrate how far someone can climb against impossibility with absolutely nothing but heritage. My personal realization of this weight was with language, but there are obviously an infinite number of stimuli that can fully remind you of how comfortable you got in allowing borders to be drawn within yourself. These stimuli arise when I see the monolithic demonization of the narratives of immigrants. These stimuli arise when I see the ferocious bastardization of both ‘immigrant’ and ‘immigration’ as words. These stimuli arise when a person who is trying to speak two or more languages with broken accents is dismissed and almost-immediately spoken down to by someone who has only ever known one. Believe me when I tell you: none of us are here just for ourselves. The superimposed weight of family, culture, and centuries of voices fighting to still be heard is a weight we were made hyperaware of from a very, very young age. Ni modo. Continuamos.
    Heather Rylie Memorial Scholarship
    For the grand dismissal and diminution that the creative arts as a professional pursuit receive, it's these exact mediums - be it the forms of film, music, dramaturgy, design, poetry, myths, reconnection with our discordant, primordial, and transcendent aspects - that we, the many, turn to when the stories we struggle to perform and confuse for the "real world" wear us down to the point of burnout, jadedness, or illness. It's these exact expressions which grant us the escapism, reprieve, and return to that innocence and wonder many of us still found in the most disparaging of environments. Holding onto that way of seeing the world in spite of what it has unleashed onto us, especially as the post-9/11 generation, is a commitment from a deeper reservoir of who we are: that nothing lived, nothing known, shall ever be in vain. In the 22+ years since then, I have made this my life's mission. I view creation as my way to honor those before me, those among me, and those who were once among us but didn't get to the other side of this marathon. It's when your work immortalizes a piece of memory, the places and faces you know you will never encounter again, that the meaning of the arts takes a deeper responsibility. I owe a responsibility to have the dead speak through me, that whatever I create, in whichever medium, will be an expansion of what was left before. I'm the son of Puerto Rican and Cuban immigrants, son of numerous multicultural communities in Northern Jersey, son of the 2000s, leftover vestige of the Millennials, predecessor to Gen Z, belonging to neither. A twilight generation who has been watching the world sink into very disheartening abuse. We watched the dawn of the smartphone, and now we witness the dawn of AI, wondering if it will consume and remove us from ourselves, from authentic connection with one another in a similar manner. The 2020's, for me, are the new 60's. And now I find myself alongside my generation in the same age range as the counterculture 60 years prior. Whether it be through cinematography, music, poetry - I owe a responsibility to channel the times in a way distinct to me that Dylan, Hendrix, Neruda, Octavio Paz, García Márquez, and infinite others - both recognized and unrecognized - did in response to the pulses of their cultures. The world has not been the same for quite some time now, and it will not return to anything we've known. We can choose to be comfortable cowards, or we can attempt to be the shamans, prophets, alchemists, and masters of what this age has given us and attempt to create something that pushes the narrative forward. And this process takes time. It takes incredible love, sacrifice, isolation, discipline, and patience of facing misunderstanding from those who we wish would understand us the most. And we keep going, we keep going, for it starts off as little by little, and then a little more - then all at once. This is a new world with new rules not yet concretized, and it's this decade that we can use to honor, in a sense justifiably avenge, that which was cast onto us when we were helpless, dependent, escaping into the arts of those before us. I wish to create to let you know I was here. But more importantly, I wish to refine my creativity in such a way as to remind those before and after that, we, as a generation, were also here. And none of it was ever in vain.
    Special Delivery of Dreams Scholarship
    There’s a messy perfection to our humanity. I’ve always liked to believe that nothing in this life was ever experienced in vain. I failed at my first attempt of college. My mental, emotional, and social health took a massive hit being in a city I never once visited, surrounded by not one student I knew prior to arrival, from all walks of life, and from the highest heights in the industry imaginable. The grandfather who was my father died of bone cancer during my first year; the same man who gave me his last $300, in which $270 of it went towards a ‘required’ textbook which was barely opened during the semester. The grandmother who was my second mother died of Parkinson’s during my sophomore year, right as I was about to start a work shift. In my third year, without being directly informed, my parents had split. And none of this is for pity — it was simply my backdrop, the clay to forge something irrevocable for myself and those like me at the College. In spite of it all, I tapped into the reservoir and ended up creating the first multilingual collection of poetry published at the College’s student press in 118 years — written in 40 hours and awarded the institution’s award for Outstanding Poetry. All proceeds went towards the immigrant custodial workers of the institution. The entire work dedicated to my grandparents. My hometown county and high school given their respective recognitions at the reception. I hail from Essex County, New Jersey. The corners of North Jersey where titans walked: James Gandolfini, Joe Pesci, Queen Latifah, Amiri Baraka, Miss Lauryn Hill and The Fugees, Allan Ginsberg, My Chemical Romance, The Sopranos, amongst countless others. Community and creative lineage go hand-in-hand here, with the second-longest mural in the country being painted by Newark natives along the McCarter Highway. There, you can clearly see the talent, ambition, and will to survive. Always remember: the tree’s heights are capable through its roots, and we’ll make whatever soil given to us work. I promise. Rumi once wrote that, “Wherever you stand, be the Soul of that place,” and this scholarship will allow for me to contribute back in-person, on-the-ground, towards what I strived to represent abroad. There’s a difference between performing for a crowd over there, but then showing your work to the community over here. That’s the true trial by fire — your testament that nothing experienced was ever in vain. Along the way, to give a sense of whimsy and romanticization, one carries their quirks and hobbies with them. I love rewatching anime, collecting items like world coins, old books, and I’ve also dabbled with stamps. The more I found myself detached from community, culture, or self, items like the stamps in particular served as little snapshots to the past for me. Stamps from Cuba featuring lizards and hummingbirds, printed long before my birth. Commemorative stamps from Japan featuring Pikachu, or an Indonesian stamp commemorating the Y2K bug expected to have wreaked havoc on devices globally once the clock struck 2000. Once something takes on the form of a game, a quest, an insatiable curiosity — similar to playing and trading within the Pokémon games — a hobby like philately becomes super meaningful. It’s easy to associate the acquiring of a particular item as a synonym to where you were at that point in life; it’s a special association that revisiting it reawakens within you. You’re reminded of your roots. You’re reminded of where you needed to be in order to rise towards who you needed to become.
    Windward Spirit Scholarship
    Winner
    This is true. I can confidently tell you that this decade of the 2020's will be for this century what the 60's were — culturally and geopolitically — for the 20th century. I was 4 years old, living right there in North Jersey, when 9/11 took place. At first, I didn't witness any of the scenes, they were shown to me the next day. What I particularly remember about that day was a deeply harrowing sense of abandonment from the parents and collective adults around me, as if they were all keeping a secret we weren't supposed to find out. Little did I know, for my generation and those proximal to it, that that would be the defining catalyst and backdrop for the world we've found ourselves in these past two decades. It's like you try to have hope for so long, but even the naïveté of youth wears fast, and we're living in the earnest breakdown of the global order as we've known it — after many decades. To accept it with grace? Inevitably, yes. But behind that grace exists great sadness, rage, and remembrance. I very much believe, especially through cultivating spaces and cultures for self-expression and meaningful discourse, that we can become the 21st-century iteration of a Great Generation 2.0. We carry the memories of society before and after the introduction and proliferation of the smartphone or digital technology as such an ingrained component of day-to-day life. I very much believe that we've seen the decline and dying of the American Dream as our parents knew it in the 90's or late 80's. As the Ode references, it very much does feel like the inheritance of an even more bankrupt country in a seemingly equally-bankrupt (monetarily and morally) global order. It's not just the US, but a lot of major economies collectively are on the precipice of deeper turmoil, with any given windfall capable of setting off a domino effect with unpredictable outcomes. Historically speaking, nations that have faced sustained domestic and economic strife tend to focus outward on campaigns of war and conquest against a "common enemy" in order to spur unity of the fractured populace through nationalism. We have been witnessing this fervor broiling and spilling across regions of the globe disproportionately within recent years, reminiscent to me of the early 2000's— this time with a younger generation. With easier access to content and information than we once had. With easier propensity for distractibility and burnout in trying to give every meaningful issue significant energy while trying to live one's life in the present, unpossessed by future or past concerns. To rendezvous with destiny, out of sheer necessity. In acknowledgment that the familiarity of what we've known is no longer suitable for the times we are now knowing. With unpredictable scenarios such as the 2024 US elections, intensified climate disasters, expanded regional conflicts, economic downturns, failing infrastructure, and black swan events looming ahead of us as we walk this decade, I have the sincerest faith that Millennials - Gen Z can still remember innocence before tragedy and fuse it with the nostalgia of the late 90's and early 2000's to synthesize something distinct and necessary for these times we presently experience. We know there is something more to this than just this. We also acknowledge that it will get worse before it gets better. It's not delusion, it's not defeat, it's the destiny before us. I often joke that I feel like the youngest old man you've ever met. A part of me felt so rushed to make sense of the world at 4, that now at 26, I don't know if I feel like a mature kid or stunted adult. It's confusing, it's humbling, it's motivating, and yet it's only one possibility of the many we can potentially experience in this new century. Generational times call for generational minds and ideas, a true confrontation between paradigms: which is most suitable for the trajectory we find ourselves along humanity's timeline. I very much believe that we recognize and uphold the responsibility of being elders in children time so the next generation can be children and elders in their proper time. There's both fear and joy in the unknown. Let us cast our sails with windward spirits.
    Michael Valdivia Scholarship
    It takes incredible strength for most men to admit when they are hurting, frustrated, numb, and confused. To hold the space, both internally and externally, to convey our feelings without reacting to them. To not be defined by shame when there's a child clenching their fist through the knots in your stomach right before attempting to remind yourself that you're human, too. That you're someone to somebody somewhere, too. They say rage is the response of knowing when our boundaries were crossed, a crucial need of ours was left unmet, our worthiness questioned, made seemingly conditional. If I can tell you a secret: sometimes the oldest sibling wants an older sibling. Perhaps there's a fine line between "old soul" and "retreating into escapist worlds of songs, films, and video games as a form of giving himself a space where he feels wanted and capable of resolving issues." I have eternal respect for all navigating the realms of depression and anxiety, especially with the intersection of study and non-curricular work. There are layers, as I find myself as the first to attend college within my family, firstborn of the siblings, and the only son, pursuing arts and creative expression in a family disciplined in medicine. It felt untruthful to me, and my refusal to pursue it early on led to friction and walking many eggshells throughout the social gatherings. There's love, then there's devotion. Devotion is understanding that meaningful portions of who you are, what you love, and what you strive to embody will be given and transformed in the path you choose to walk. Be it an artistic craft, raising a human, cleaning a surface, throwing an object, preparing a meal... if you seriously care about how you realize your brief time here on this earth, wanting to become better and confronting your inner obstacles to integrate them into a newer version of yourself is inevitable. I failed and have had to retake numerous classes in high school and courses in my first attempt of college due to feeling like an imposter, fundamentally flawed, isolated in student culture and interests to the point of paralyzing shame. Navigating the deaths of both of my maternal grandparents on top of the destruction of Hurricane Maria upon my native island of Puerto Rico arguably gave me the most difficult year to vouch for my reason to still be here. Helpless doesn't describe the magnitude of what I felt. I'm not here to write a pity story; I'm here to leave you with the reminder that deep in the core of your spirit, when everything seems existentially against the wall, in those very moments pay attention to that inner spark fighting to stay lit. You can't describe it in words, but you know there's someone, somewhere, inside of your spirit reminding you that this is not all there is. The setup for the greatest possible comeback is being conspired around as we speak. I've spent many years messing up as a student, with the state of my mental health sabotaging meaningful opportunities and connections for me throughout the process. I wish to refine my capacities and motivation through my studies to honor all those versions of myself who needed time and self-compassion. To serve as representative for masculine expression and vulnerability as it relates to our struggles. For past, present, and future. One beacon can guide a whole shoreline. I'm here to make something of myself. To leave something beautiful from imagined imperfections.
    Velez NJ Scholarship
    There was a book handed to me by my high school English teacher shortly after I graduated, a hand-me-down from a thrift shop in which a message was written in black marker across the first blank page: "The storyteller is the link between the tribe and the society." And so, too, do I view my life this way. By sharing with you what I have known, what I feel, and what I am a continuation of, I contribute to the expansion of human expression and being, in some way or another. To honor by honing. But what does this mean? I'm a child of refugees, the grandchild of Cuban peasant farmers who eventually left the island with everything in one wooden suitcase for a family of 6. They found their way to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I was eventually born. We later moved to North Jersey, where I have grown up since. I spend time thinking about the creative, cultural legacy that our little corner of Jersey has — Queen Latifah, Miss Lauryn Hill, The Fugees, Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons, The Sopranos, My Chemical Romance, SZA, Allen Ginsberg, Tops Diner, the second-longest mural in the country running along the McCarter Highway, commissioned all by local artists. And the list continues. Somehow, some way, I want to honor not only the heritage of Jersey, but the heritage I brought with me to Jersey, infuse it with my own elements, and not be an imitation of those before me, but rather a continuation of the lineage, another possibility offered out of the ones currently known. The pandemic had halted my prior studies at another school in Boston, and although I did not complete the program, I did honor my intentions stated not only here, but many years ago - in that, I serve as representative of everything and everyone before me, that if I do leave trees I might never see the shade of, may they be titans and testaments to the care the one who sowed their seeds undertook for this to be. I felt very isolated at times, and channeled a lot of that energy into poetry, essays, screenplays, raps — utilizing writing as both release and response. Some of the outcomes of this journey resulted in the first multilingual manuscript of poetry selected for publication by the school's student literary press in over 100 years, a collection of English, Spanish, and Taíno letters; the proceeds from copies sold were donated to the local non-profit of Central American immigrant custodial workers organized at the school, reinforcing the use of craft to facilitate mobility elsewhere within the community. Something that never sat right with me, especially from the position of a Puerto Rican, was the speaking of great Latin American literature almost as if it was in the past tense, a bygone era to cherish and return to, as if there was ever a defined point at which this conversation blurred into the background. It's limiting and very defeatist, to believe that our brilliance peaked in a prior century when this one has just yet to begin. The ones on the forefront of the times were the ones paying attention. Honoring legacy through honing of self — in turn, leaving something distinct. I love writing and have sincere plans to toss my two cents into the tradition once it's all said and done. This scholarship will facilitate with tuition, coursework material, commuting, submission expenses for journals/publications, and overall peace of mind. Firstborn child, first to attend any college. I also wish to leave beautiful trees.
    Anthony McPherson Memorial Automotive Scholarship
    Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a pervasive ill in our society that only leaves havoc in its wake. The consequences of DUIs leave communities devastated, families broken, and many lives lost yearly. By implementing imaginative approaches to this issue, we strive towards meaningful progress and collective safety. DUI has both immediate and long-lasting repercussions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that alcohol-related collisions cause about 10,000 fatalities each year in the US alone. These are people, not just statistics. Suffering endured by victims' loved ones is a secondary trauma in and of itself, emphasizing how one’s individual choices reverberate and impact more than just the one behind the wheel. In addition, the financial tolls are enormous, with billions of dollars lost annually to medical bills, court costs, and property damage. The burden of DUI-related injuries on our healthcare system takes resources away from other areas where they could be better administered. To combat DUI, we must implement practical tactics. The most important strategies are awareness and education. By highlighting the immorality and legal ramifications of driving while intoxicated, these campaigns have the power to change attitudes and perceptions. There’s always a choice, and it’s never too late. Governments and organizations can work together with rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft to provide incentives for making ethical driving decisions, with discounted or free rides depending on consumption/capacity/location. Ignition interlock devices, which require a breathalyzer test before vehicle start-up, can also deter effectively. Community service and mandatory rehabilitation programs help deal with root causes of risky conduct, if we approach this from a legal system angle. The most important aspect of DUI reduction, in all of this, is personal responsibility. When friends, relatives, or colleagues think someone’s about to drive under the influence, they’re urged to step in and help — be it a designated driver, sober buddy, or dissenting voice of reason. In extension, including local pubs and restaurants can effectively combat cases, with staff members receiving training on identifying signs of intoxication and declining to serve customers who are already noticeably drunk. In conclusion, DUIs have terrible consequences — and we can affect change if we’re committed to doing so. As a collective and through adaptable approaches, we can confront avoidable tragedies head-on. The fight against driving under the influence must include education, technology, the legal system, and community involvement. By working together, we avert pain, save lives, and increase everyone's safety on the roads. Better to say I miss you and I love you while they’re still here, not just when the guilt greets us.
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    Looking at my present self through the eyes of the future teacher who loves me – not the past voices who defined me.
    Sean Carroll's Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship
    This is such an exciting prompt to answer, and I honestly don't know where to begin. It first needs to be understood the accepting of paradox: that we are both immensely complex and significant in some sense, but in zooming the cosmic lens out into the vast expanse we've termed as the Universe, we're painfully, starkly reminded of fleeting, temporal, and ineffectual our presence here might be in relation to the whole, what many students of these questions define as The All. Here, I think specifically of alchemical texts, Gnostic writings, the tenets of Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism, and Shinto. To further understand the nature of the Cosmos without, it's necessary to cultivate a sense of self-awareness within. Observing our automatic behaviors and beliefs and asking why they were the first choice of response or reaction to be generated by you in response to a stimulus. Why was that the first choice? Why does it feel so familiar? Why are you afraid of uncertainty and lack of control? Why do certain things attract you, and others repel you? Here, my friends, is where we confront our Hero's Journey, the answering to The Call, the descent into and lifelong meaningful integration of the unconscious with the conscious. To approach the unseen forces and memories existent within us governing the course of what we previously-deemed a fully, consciously-willed life. It leads to disciplining one's perception, that in being able to witness your own shadow, you become more prone to spotting shadow projections from others, on an individual and collective scale (citizen vs. citizen, or, in its worst rendition, nations vs. nations). It is very clear to even the most denying that the state of global affairs is shifting, that what we're entering would be incredibly foolish to dare compare to anything of the past - and it's this exact fear of the unknown that we can work together to face, in spite of it all, or we can choose to fall back on the behaviors, beliefs, and approaches that got us here. For this aspect of understanding the nature of things, I think of the writings of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Abraham Maslow, and the autobiography of Richard Feynman. So we've introduced the Cosmos as The All, we've delved into its recognition by acknowledging firstly the Cosmos within one's Self (or Soul, or Psyche), so lastly what I would like to expound upon is the reality that we are not separate from anything around us. It might appear through visual sensory input to the brain that the screen across from me and the keyboard I'm typing with are separate from Me, moreso my egoic idea of myself, but really once you break down the basic components of these instruments, to their original sites of extraction, to their basic molecular contents, there's bound to be similar structures and atoms within our own physiologies. One is simply external, the other intrinsic. Where did they come from? Does that mean that at some point in the early Earthly creations we might be descendant of the same ancestor? Can a meteor or star also be claimed as an Ancestor? It sounds silly at first, but that's the paradox of alchemical language: it won't be understood until you examine it. Lastly, I think of the series Cosmos - both the original Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson versions. I think we were made to be curious for a reason. Yes or No?
    Maverick Grill and Saloon Scholarship
    Since my earliest years, I've always felt like the outcast. And not in a derogatory, dismissive light - just simply as a fact of life. Like gravity being gravity, air being air, sunlight being sunlight - regardless of the presence of clouds. You knew it was still there. You knew it had to authentically be there, or something beyond our immediate impression of reason and harmony would be felt off-balance. I'm looking at photos of myself with my younger sister as I write this - my only sibling. And deep down in my heart, my soul, perhaps what concretized the feeling of being an outsider and iconoclast to both family and social groups was the example I wanted to model for my sister, who I knew would grow up in a far harsher world than I would. I very deliberately embraced my eccentricities to draw ire from parental figures and teachers alike, in the long-term hopes that it wouldn't be inflicted onto her. At age 5, I picked up the pieces of a 39-year-old man. None of it is regretted, but I would be lying to you if I told you it didn't leave ghosts that I still grapple with to this day, as a 25-year-old. But even beneath the heaviest depressions, I refused to relinquish being my authentic self, whether or not it sabotaged me. I always root for the underdog, because I know what it's like to be the underdog. I root for the nerd, the anime kid, the video game geek, the constellation-ponderer, the pet whisperer; I advocate for the 4th grader with 60's rock tendencies, the 7th grader with 80's nostalgia, the high school freshman with a seemingly old soul, yearning for times and places multiples older than the scant years they've been alive. What makes me unique - but rather - what makes the lot of us unique, is that our inner worlds, commitments, and dreams have always held greater weight than the social and filial approval of those around us. It's a calling from deep within the spirit and psyche that cannot be overlooked, because the sense of betrayal in ignoring it is far more haunting than watering ourselves down in dismissal for temporal reprieve. When it was all said and done (and I don't know what this might mean to the scholarship panel reading this), in my senior year of high school, after unabashedly being 'the weird kid' for my entire time there, my class had nominated me for the senior superlative for Best Personality. It surprised me as well, because deep down in the back of my mind, I had correlated 'the Weird Kid' for also being 'undesirable, unlikeable, unworthy.' And it goes to show that sometimes our inner perception of things is not the external perception. Perhaps it went to show that authenticity to self can be felt by those struggling with inauthenticity towards their own genuine self-expression. And it's scary, and it's terrifying, and you make yourself a walking target. I know. But I think, on an unconscious level, what kept me going, was the example I wanted to set for my sister. You believe in your mind. Your imagination. Your capacity to make the impossible possible. And those grappling with walking that same path will see you, and hopefully resonate with the attempt; that neither they - nor I - are the only ones here. What makes me unique? I believe impossibility is an opinion. With a knife against my throat, I know that I represent a culture, a generation, and a lineage. I'm uniquely, truly, unapologetically... myself.
    Trudgers Fund
    Any child of a diasporic household can tell you horror stories, whether or not they wish to be brought into the consciousness. We get so accustomed to beliefs and behaviors that we mistake for our own, that we earnestly interpret as "right" and "normal" - only to have the subtle mystique of ignorance slowly dissolved or immediately shattered upon our interactions with the world outside of the household and family/cultural psyche. We could feel deeply, we could feel numb, we could feel nothing, or we could feel like we know exactly what it is that we feel. The ego's attempt of rationalizing, intellectualizing a particularly-crafted worldview which offers us the hidden protective mechanism of not acknowledging the possibility of what might be underneath. It's legitimately scary and confusing, and my journey into coping with the weight of being an entire immigration's vindication since age 5 is mirrored in many similar manifestations in the upbringings of my family and friends. I've seen addiction and the struggle of the denial, withdrawal, and relapse process through parental and caretaking figures, factoring prominently into conflicts repeated throughout my development. I've always been highly-sensitive, and I haven't been given the double-edged grace of not being able to consciously recall any portion of life, for I can tell you what was going on within any given year of life. In my adolescence and well into my first years in my first attempt at college, I developed forms of escapism which eventually led into alcohol and substance abuse. I denied the dependency vehemently, that I can exist without it at will - but then found myself experiencing repressed emotions within the body that felt incredibly possessing, bordering on fear and panic, and describing myself as not being able to 'wake up' until I had alcohol or other substances within me. Once chronic, I couldn't identify who was the Julio making the decisions, and who was the Julio I was identifying with and projecting into the world. I was very, very high-functioning, to where it was socially unnoticeable except for a few fumbles and delayed responses here and there. But I knew it was a deeply-enabled escapism and betrayal of my authentic needs and desires to express and belong, even though I was fairly-known and respected in the social ecosystems I navigated. Long story short, it ended with me overestimating my capabilities one day, behaving noticeably disorderly at a supermarket, which thus led to an arrest, detainment, processing, and pending court date. The shame and listlessness of trying to make sense of how suddenly and starkly the way I'd been winging my life set in deeply, to where I was experiencing frequent nightmares. I drank more to cope with the uncertainty of the upcoming court date as if I had not learned from the initial shock. In essence, due to it only being first offense, a deal was worked between my public defense attorney and prosecutor to apply for conditional discharge - which is essentially probation. I've been doing well, have been honoring my sobriety, and it's been an incredible trip - because you don't realize how deep your body and mind have been accustomed to dependency when, over a couple months out, it still felt like my body was detoxing. I'm utilizing my education to not only sharpen my training in writing, to communicate the stories I wish to communicate to the world, but also personally complete the journey I couldn't complete in college the first time around, my personal redemption and migration vindication. There's so much more out there, and I'm much more than my past.
    Kozakov Foundation Fellowship for Creatives
    For the grand disrespect and oversight that the creative arts as a professional pursuit receive, it's these exact expressions - be it the forms of film, music, dramaturgy, graphic design, poetry, myths, reconnection with our discordant primordial and transcendent - that we the many turn to when the false stories we struggle to perform for and mistake for "the real world" wear us down to the point of burnout, neurosis, self-doubt, dejection, anger, illness. It's these exact expressions which grant us the escapism, reprieve, and return to that innocence and wonder many of us still found in the most disparaging of childhoods. Holding onto that way of seeing the world in spite of what it has unleashed onto us, especially the post-9/11 generation, is a commitment from a deeper reservoir of who we are - that nothing lived, nothing known, will ever be in vain. In the 20 years since then, I have made this my life's mission. I view creation as my way to honor those before me, those among me, and those who were once among us but didn't get to the other side of this marathon. It's when your work immortalizes a piece of memory, the places and faces you know you will never encounter again, that the meaning of the arts takes a deeper responsibility. I owe a responsibility to have the dead speak through me, that whatever I create, in whichever medium, will be an expansion of what was left before. I'm the son of Puerto Rican and Cuban immigrants, son of numerous multicultural communities in Northern Jersey, son of the 2000s, leftover vestige of the Millennials, predecessor to Gen Z, belonging to neither. A twilight generation who has been watching the world sink into very disheartening abuse. We watched the dawn of the smartphone, and now we witness the dawn of AI, wondering if it will consume and remove us from ourselves, from authentic connection with one another in a similar manner. The 2020's, for me, are the new 60's. And now I find myself alongside my generation in the same age range as the counterculture 60 years prior. Whether it be through cinematography, music, poetry - I owe a responsibility to channel the times in a way distinct to me that Dylan, Hendrix, Neruda, Octavio Paz, García Márquez, and infinite others - both recognized and unrecognized - did in response to the pulse of their cultures. The world has not been the same for quite some time now, and it will not return to anything we've known. We can choose to be comfortable cowards, or we can attempt to be the shamans, prophets, alchemists, and masters of what this age has given us and attempt to create something that pushes the narrative forward. And this process takes time. It takes incredible love, sacrifice, isolation, discipline, and patience of facing misunderstanding from those who we wish would understand us the most. And we keep going, we keep going, for it starts off as little by little, and then a little more - then all at once. This is a new world with new rules not yet concretized, and it's this decade that we can use to honor, in a sense justifiably avenge, that which was cast onto us when we were helpless, dependent, escaping into the arts of those before us. I wish to create to let you know I was here. But more importantly, I wish to refine my creativity in such a way as to remind those before and after that, we, as a generation, were also here.
    Charles Cheesman's Student Debt Reduction Scholarship
    Son of refugees, adamant on honoring the sacrifices of my ancestors from the Caribbean and West African coastlines through my capacities for language; poetry, rapping, essays, & speeches to reshape how we view the canon of both contemporary and Latin American literature. I have photos of Gabriel García Márquez, Kobe going up against Jordan, the Puerto Rican independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos (first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard, would have been valedictorian had it not been for institutional racism), the Mexican authorities Octavio Paz, Da Vinci, and Einstein playing a violin all taped onto my bedroom wall, a series of faces I consult when I wake and right before I sleep. I aspire to these heights, and speak with each one through prayer, as if they were my guiding mentors. I wish to represent the literary/artistic tradition of Essex County, New Jersey, and ultimately write my way up to a platform where I can make an argument with my local & state representatives to put forward a bill reinstating the Poet Laureate position once more for the State of New Jersey. I'm hungry, I'm restless on this realization, and from the core of my humanity I will appreciate your belief in me. I wish to make even the most jaded, dejected souls believe that this life is worth another attempt at a day. It's a disproportionate & often-tolling responsibility, and I understand that I don't need to be doing any of this, but it's because I've known this apathy — anger and depression aimed towards everything within and outside of you — that I aspire for our better futures. Prior to my current attendance at Essex County College, I attended but did not complete my Bachelor's program at Emerson College - the first of my family to attend a private institution. My accomplishments? In 2016, I wrote a collection of 20 poems in the span of 40 hours which resulted in becoming the first multilingual manuscript accepted and published by the College's student press, Wilde Press - the first multilingual manuscript in 118 years. That very same academic year, it was awarded the College's EVVY Award for Outstanding Poetry, selected by industry professionals. In 2017, a poem I wrote exploring the countries of Latin America received the 2017 Atlantis Award for Poetry, as well as being nominated for but not receiving the following academic year's Outstanding Poetry Award. The following academic year, I served as Vice-President and MC Chair of The Hip-Hop Society, a student organization open to the Boston Hip-Hop community, in which we broke down the walls of accessibility for the Culture, as well as creating a studio album which became the first time in the College's history that Hip-Hop lyrics were nominated for the Outstanding Poetry Award. In that very same nomination pool, my individual collection of poems was nominated by Don Share, Chief Editor of POETRY Magazine, as the recipient of the Outstanding Poetry Award. As it currently stands, I am the only individual in the award's history to receive the distinction twice. And all of it - ALL of it - was to put respect on the name of the culture and community I hail from. For the sacrifices of those before me who had brought me here. All before the age of 22. My life, career, and ambitions are only beginning. When it's said and done, know that Essex County, New Jersey spearheaded the movement to have the Poet Laureate position for the State of New Jersey reinstated, after having been abolished in 2003. All of it — for the Culture. Bless.
    Act Locally Scholarship
    What stood out to me in the aftermath of experiencing 9/11 as a 4-year-old in NY/NJ wasn't the immediate impression of the attacks or the towers collapsing, but the radical sense of emotional abandonment that I and many of my peers collectively experienced from our parent's generation, a generation mostly taught say yes and no and bottle up any discontent or pain, otherwise they're wrong, not good enough, weak, or failures. 20 years later, I can confirm that what I felt was true, and it wasn't just me who felt this collective physical presence yet psycho-emotional distancing or full-out absence from the adults who witnessed the events at the time. The lessons we learned from having to carefully observe the behaviors and inner realms of those who were supposed to be offering that privilege to us have left a particular charge within my generation to not replicate that level of abandon, and to do so requires awareness of self, attachment dynamics, but, most importantly - and as disproportionate as it may sound - we model the healthy behaviors and practices to ourselves and families that they could not have offered themselves, simply for being in survival mode for so long, that what they mostly knew has been repression, outbursts, avoidance, and the like. And it's scary choosing the path of healing and accountability because you're going to be the great scapegoat of the household, family, community, culture. As is the path of saints and masters. I actively strive to model the behaviors and attention to emotional bids for connection that I wanted from my caregiver, because I understand the sense of isolation trying to figure out what it means to be a man in an all-women household, where the masculinity modeled by my father was incredibly narcissistic, petulant, and abusive. But, zoom out the camera lens, and we see the instance of his respective generational trauma underneath his father, and the internalization of the machismo culture systemically rampant where we're from. I wish to show the brilliance of my generation is not misplaced anger, but the cultivation of righteous anger to move us individually and collectively towards a higher plateau of awareness and empathy than from what we've gotten too comfortable with and had no choice but to bear witness to. We're grown up now. The world around us is at its breaking point. And as it stands, will always learn more through actions than we will ever be taught with words.
    Femi Chebaís Scholarship
    My dream? Picking up a pen at the beginning of this life and dragging it unto its final sentence — by the time we reach the end of these choices, regrets, and resiliencies collectively titled as 'Julio's Life,' there will never again be a question upon the legitamacy and distinction of Puerto Rican literature. Every significant choice is in servitude to this call.
    Larry Darnell Green Scholarship
    I watched my single, domestically-abused mother, who knew zero English, raise an entire family on her back. There is no doubt in my soul that as a first-generation student, we've carried that particular weight of vindicating the disproportionate sacrifices and circumstances of those who meaningfully invested their time, effort, wisdom, and hope into you. I've grappled with bouts of incredible dejection, listlessness, and shame; yet on the other side of that valley, whenever the celestial powers deem us understanding of whatever lessons we must finally confront, learn, and grow from — it has made me an incredibly resilient, indomitable spirit. Deep down, due to the roles I've had to take on as a parentified child, I refuse to believe anything was ever in vain. Taking on roles of leadership or initiation doesn't feel foreign to me – it's either I set an example, or become the example. Being the only male in a household of women, I did not wish to become a repetition of my father, nor was this path the loving architecture our grandparents helped shape. As a result, I'm pursuing studies in International Relations, concentrating in Latin American Studies; my time is also balanced with pushing the representation forward through creating poetry, raps, music, films that offer someone scattered silvers of light into the boy who had to make sense of a man's choices. I wish to understand multigenerational trauma. All of my academic and independent studies are to be distilled into (hopefully) a beautiful life, and a beautiful legacy of work, if choose to not become a parent. To hopefully give meaning in a world that tries so hard to take it away. I wish to honor my mother, all of the single parents who took on the role of parenting other people's children without any hesitation – because it really does take a village – and that whatever is left of my time here, may they know true gratitude and recognition for their collective efforts. Any heights I've known or will soon know, I'm only there to figure out how to bring everybody else up there with me. Nothing known here shall ever, ever be in vain.
    Share Your Poetry Scholarship
    "Hiruzen" & the horse-archers watched as I tried to tame the wild. calculations of sleepless steps bent on becoming imprint: because to speak my verse is to decipher my movements, and if the stray arrow orients itself to my binding of skin, let the wound tear and flow with pages, stanzas, chapters, remembering the libraries burned at the passing of elders. I am more than a meek inheritance of ash and condolence. I wish to know the names of all of the provinces, the fruits, the sensation of metamorphosis— devoid of all its amnesia, and I wish to locate my friends still fearful of the sunlight. whispering our sonnets into the wings of messenger birds, crafters of nocturnal postal systems, we smuggled a verse, night by night, uncertain of the lawless return of the hawk, until the words were to form blood vessels, manifest breath, deciphering the dialects of diurnal destitutions— and walk. my words will walk with me as I identify a forgotten body. they will watch over my shoulder as I utter a child’s name. listen closely to the pronunciation: it’s a subtle coordinate. there’s a basket of fading maps hidden within our names. in what language, through which ancestor, are they read? to which gods do we sacrifice? how many horses offered? must we domesticate the wind in order to hear ourselves? I wish to hear the sound of my words walking beside me. there is life beyond this province: libraries without name, the feathers of an executed hawk raining across the dawn, with each of the shadows casting imprints upon the land, mimicking footsteps, meter, and the trampling of distance; I want to shout my name into the wild and be remembered. there is no more time for calculations. a mare coughs ash.
    Bold Wise Words Scholarship
    In transcendental meditation, a mantra is given to a student by a teacher to serve as an anchor for the mind, a return to intent. I would also like to add that many discount the developmental role that anime has played - and continues to play - within the psychoemotional, personal, and spiritual development for many of its loyal fans. For many who were first-generation, outcasts in either society, for those who were capable of suspending the environments around them to admire the heroes in front of them, friendships and loves we sometimes honored in secret - for many of us, these animated drawings shown in rapid sequencing were our most visceral relationship with self-identity, the mantric return to who we were before the infliction of the world. I was 9 years old, and I remember watching the episode of Naruto syndicated on Toonami that I've quoted throughout my life since then. It was spoken by the reanimated form of the character Itachi Uchiha, who I unconsciously modeled my own behavior and self-expression after due to pure admiration of his integrity: in response to an incredibly-bleak circumstance with minimal probability of fortune, Itachi simply asserts "Analysis requires calm." It's like a series of ancient locks and mechanisms started synchronizing within me immediately as I first heard that. It became the most unintentional sacred mantra my life has coursed itself around. The future? The past? The present you? The choices, or the impacts? The courage or the fear? Yes? No? Authenticity? Acceptance? Are you active or passive in this life? Can your best friends never have once met you? What larger story are we part of? Is today a good day? Will you wave back to the call? Return to your breath. Analysis requires calm to know stillness in these waters.
    Bold Patience Matters Scholarship
    The open casket doesn't bring closure. There you see the body of my brother, aged 30; there in the front row you see his two children, his fiancée, the rest of my siblings. You don't see, but rather you feel more than an just an entire room siphoning grief through you - the remaining son. It was the son in the front of that room, however, who tried to understand something he looked for in his own life: patience. The patience, through his chronic trials of childhood and adolescence, to at least become the patient, present, father, son, and husband that deep in our hearts, independent from our separate upbringings, raged our spirits into halting the inheritance. And here I stand, trying to understand the definition of patience in what seems like this purgatory of mirages and twisted jokes. Why was my only comrade in this silent war now a monument to what could have been? The look of any son's face in that room is what we were both independently trying to prevent. The irrationality of the unexpected, the irrationality of the expected; both are equal demons on the psyche and soul if we cannot immediately accept that which is in front of us, and to develop the patience with not only ourselves, but the process, with others, striving to notice the harmony in existence which automatic emotions and thought patterns confine us to. It's the cultivation of patience in dysregulation; it's the cultivation of patience with the inner critic we mistake for ourselves; it's the cultivation of patience when the philosophical texts weren't enough to hold back the instinct of mortality, shading oneself the color of all failures instead of sifting through these ashes, finding the lesson patiently waiting for us on the other side of today.
    "Wise Words" Scholarship
    I learned a phrase during the first lockdown, one which has anchored and guided my life, as well as how I respond to the events that occur within it. Formally attributed to Nietszche, though adamantly practiced in the thought experiments of the Ancient Stoics 2,000 years earlier, Amor Fati means to love your Fate. To accept that which is immediately in front of you, to understand that the obstacle is the way. To fall in love with adversity, knowing that it’s a teacher meant to improve you— a lesson in every outcome. So, how does this have to do with my scholarship pursuits? Why am I doing this? What’s my story’s story? It’s as simple as trying to honor and represent my culture. There are places, people, and moments I wish for my life’s works to honor. As a student, how can I master my Fate without consciously seeking it out? If I wish to reach the heights I visualize and aspire to, then my capacities need to be regularly challenged, and I must be willing to accept the conditions of what is in front of me. I have my dreams— but the steps to turn them into realized goals, at least for me, is through solid educational opportunity. I wish to show those around me that anything, and anyone, is possible. And so, I accepted this challenge of willing my focus and time into tackling scholarships, understanding which opportunities challenge my personal strengths and weaknesses, putting into practice our title of student. In short, what motivates me is seizing every opportunity to give myself the widest possible avenues for success and fulfillment in academic pursuits. Not only for myself, but for my community, culture, and ancestors. We as students feel like we’re confronting immense choices about our lives rather often, but it’s in these confrontations of unnerving undertakings where we allow for ourselves to forge true authorship over our life’s narrative. I have my Fate in front of me, and the realization of my goals are waiting on the other side of this challenge. And repeat. Amor Fati, friend.
    Imagine Dragons Origins Scholarship
    Son of refugees, adamant on honoring the sacrifices of my ancestors from the Caribbean and West African coastlines through my capacities for language; poetry, rapping, essays, & speeches to reshape how we view the canon of both contemporary and Latin American literature. I have photos of Gabriel García Márquez, Kobe going up against Jordan, the Puerto Rican independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos (first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard, would have been valedictorian had it not been for institutional racism), the Mexican authorities Octavio Paz, Da Vinci, and Einstein playing a violin all taped onto my bedroom wall, a series of faces I consult when I wake and right before I sleep. I aspire to these heights, and speak with each one through prayer, as if they were my guiding mentors. I wish to represent the literary/artistic tradition of Essex County, New Jersey, and ultimately write my way up to a platform where I can make an argument with my local & state representatives to put forward a bill reinstating the Poet Laureate position once more for the State of New Jersey. I'm hungry, I'm restless on this realization, and from the core of my humanity I will appreciate your belief in me. I wish to make even the most jaded, dejected souls believe that this life is worth another attempt at a day. It's a disproportionate & often-tolling responsibility, and I understand that I don't need to be doing any of this, but it's because I've known this apathy — anger and depression aimed towards everything within and outside of you — that I aspire for our better futures. Bless.