Earlier this month, Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2 proudly welcomed over 200 attendees for a conference focused on high expectations for all scholars. (For more on the conference click here to read an earlier blog post.)

During lunch at the conference Central Falls Mayor James Diossa recognized four students from Central Falls High School and BVP High School with $350 scholarships and citations for winning the conference essay contest by answering the prompt “In what ways have high expectations impacted your life?” The winners shared inspiring excerpts from their essays with conference attendees that we would now like to share with you.

Nathan Dwyer, 9th grade student
Nathan’s essay told the tale of how he was often not challenged in school prior to attending Blackstone Valley Prep, which led to a general disinterest in education. At the conference, he shared what he experienced after starting to attend a school that believed firmly in high expectations for all students.

Once the first few weeks of school started to pass, I slowly started to find the work easy, the homework too boring and I drifted into my old habits. It was a sad time and I had felt that BVP had betrayed me, but Mr. Madden, my math teacher came to the rescue. This teacher was the first teacher to show me high standards and what I could achieve when I was challenged and when I was pushed. I started to enjoy school and even the homework. He would give me packets full of complicated math problems and I would just toil away at them having the time of my life. For the first time in forever I felt like I was learning.

From that point on I took any chance I could to learn and had fun doing it. The high expectations that Mr. Madden gave me have never left me and I continue to learn anything that I want to or set my mind to. The expectations were soon being set by me as I thought “If I can do this, I wonder if I could do this.” This has lead me to end up learning half of the sophomore math curriculum as a freshman just because I enjoyed it. If it were not for Mr. Madden and that flyer (about BVP), I don’t think I would be able to sit here for an hour and write almost a thousand words…

Christopher Fortes, 12th grade student
Christopher’s essay underscores the many sources of motivation he has had that have driven his education and how grateful he has been for them.

My father worked in a factory making highway parts for forty years. My mother has worked as a translator for ten years. Being raised in a family where working hard is what keeps the family itself stable, I developed a way of thinking that working hard leads to eventual success. I come from a family of immigrants who taught me to aim higher, and that dedication to my studies would lead to the much better life they envisioned upon coming to this country. Becoming successful through education did not just entail graduating high school and going to college –– it meant that I would strive to be a holistic, productive member of society who would be in a position to give back to this city. I would be able to serve as a role model to the kids throughout the school district to never accept the mediocrity that failing test scores and a lack of resources has misguidedly reflected…

…Over the years, I have also been setting expectations for myself. I am currently striving to succeed in my future. I have seen the situations of those who have not made the most of their education, resulting in a struggle to supply for their families. I simply want the best for me and for my family in the future. I am a person who is very driven and determined to reach my goals. Making the most of what I have at a school with financial struggles has been a necessity over the years. I have worked immensely hard, resulting in my class rank, at number 3. Maintaining an A average has been my goal since freshman year, which I have succeeded in doing. My road to success isn’t anywhere near over, and I do not plan on stopping any time soon.

Charlotte Geoghegan, 9th grade student
Charlotte’s essay explains the given expectation that all children in her household will attend college. While she is absolutely driven to do so, she explains that she has set an even higher bar for herself – committing to find a college that will be the best fit for her as she pursues a career in medicine.

As a high school freshman, I am well aware that this is where I must make things happen. These next four years will help set the stage for my future. I must be successful in and out of the classroom. Reviewing both the college and medical school acceptance rates, I know I am going to have to work extremely hard. As a high school student who has lived 15 years of relying on my parents to set my expectations, I realize I have to set high expectations for myself. By setting high expectations for myself, I encourage myself to complete everything wholeheartedly. Having these high expectations helps me complete my goals and eventually reach the finish line, my career. High expectations give you a sense of self-reliance. When you don’t have someone there to tell you what you need to complete, you need to step up and take care of yourself. Having set goals for myself pushes me to strive and go above and beyond. That is what I need in order to go to the schools I want to go to.

High expectations also has me realizing how I need to contribute more as a person. Academic achievement is important but giving back is even more so. In order to do this I looked to volunteering more. During school, I give tours to other students who are interested in the teaching styles of the school I attend. Then I attend a scholar panel to answer any questions they might have about my experiences with the learning program I use. Along with volunteer work within my school, I’ve started volunteering outside of school. At my former school using the curriculum I’ve learned, I volunteer there to help kids who are struggling to recap certain information. I’ve learned I am the only student who volunteers there. I see it not only as an opportunity for them, but an opportunity for me to better my leadership skills. It’s held once a month on a Saturday for three hours. Also, at the same school, I’ve been volunteering as an assistant coach for the track team they hold in the spring. Along with track and others ports, every fall I volunteer at a soccer program called TOPS where I coach kids with special needs who cannot participate on a regular team. I’ve set high expectations not only academically, but fundamentally on what type of a person I want to be. I want to be a kind, strong leader. I look for ways to better myself and better my community.

Dori Phillips, 10th grade student
Dori’s essay speaks to the societal expectations set for young women, how they differ from those set for young men as well as the assumptions made about ladies of color concerning their demeanor and ability to achieve.

…Growing up as a young black woman in America, my parents always felt the need to set high expectations for me as well as my siblings. My mom would always say to us “You are the head and not the tail. You are always above and never beneath.” Due to the fact that I have dreams of becoming a Neonatologist, high expectations are extremely necessary for my success. From washing dishes, to perfecting my grades I know that those around me have always expected me to do everything to the best of my ability and that is why I tend to thrive in my home as well as my learning environment. When I was younger I never understood the reasoning behind why A’s and good behavior were always expected of us. However, I am now coming to the realization that the higher you set your standards and expectations the further you will go in life. I think that high expectations are a necessary part in any child’s success and I would strongly encourage all parents to uphold high standards for their children. With this being said, high expectations have always had a very important role in my life and I know that it always will.

Congratulations to all the essay winners. We can’t wait to see where your drive and determination take you!