When eighth-graders apply to the Reynolds ACA, they are asked to write an application essay asking them to look inward at the habits they have already developed and those they need to develop in order to be successful in this program. Here's the prompt:
Success in college-level work requires certain habits of mind: curiosity, creativity, flexibility, openness, persistence, responsibility, engagement in your own learning, and the ability to reflect on your own thinking. In an essay, describe how you have already developed three of these habits, and identify at least one habit you will need to develop further in order to make the most of this opportunity to accelerate your move into higher education.
John Mitchell Arcibal (a.k.a. Jomo)
Reynolds ACA Class of 2016
J.R. Tucker High School
Here’s the essay Jomo submitted in 2012 as a 14-year-old:
College is the most stressful experience that any student has to endure, yet students dream of going through that stressful segment of education. I am one of those dreamers. My dream is to be the first person in my family to achieve a college degree in America. My father dropped out of college to help support his family, and my mother never had the opportunity to go to some of the best colleges in the world. To succeed in college it requires students to possess certain habits of mind: curiosity, engagement in one’s own learning, and persistence. I believe that I exemplify these habits of mind; however, I’m not perfect. I also need to develop further my ability to reflect on my own thinking.
They say curiosity killed the cat; however, I’m not the cat. I’m very curious, about learning, life skills, and whatever else comes before me. My passion to be curious fuels my desire to learn and never give up on the quest for knowledge. I want to learn new things. Whenever I have questions in class, I’m never afraid to ask. I can always ask for help. My curiosity to make sure my learning stays on the right path and progresses is another skill I pride myself in. I know people think asking for help is a weakness, but sometimes it is necessary, and to do what is best to fuel my curiosity will only make me stronger in the long run.
Secondly, I believe I possess an engagement in my own learning. Ever since I was in Kindergarten I wanted to learn. When the teacher asked each student what their favorite part of school was, my favorite part was homework because it helped me learn. Even though my favorite part of school has definitely shifted, I still possess an engagement in my own learning. I always go the extra mile with my work, I do my best, pay attention in class, and I have fun with my work.
I believe that I present persistence. I never give up, no matter the circumstances. A couple of years ago, my dad passed away, and everything seemed to go downhill. However with all the new responsibilities, I had to move on, and become stronger. At first I thought it was going to be impossible to get on with my life, but I realized it was possible. I persisted and moved on and I came out a stronger person. With all these traits in mind I believe I am able to utilize this program to its fullest extent.
However, I am not perfect. There is still a skill I need to strengthen: the ability to reflect on my own thinking. I know I can further this ability and while it is strengthened I can further utilize the opportunities exhibited by this program. I understand that this program will present difficult and rigorous curriculum but I am ready and I think I will do well and grow in this program.
Late last fall, we asked the graduating ACA seniors at J.R. Tucker to take another look at those eighth-grade essays and to provide us with a brief update.
Here’s Jomo's take on his eighth-grade self, after four years in the ACA:
Looking back at my response in eighth grade, I would most likely approach the prompt in a similar fashion. I believe two of my most developed habits of mind are still curiosity and persistence. However, responsibility has emerged as an important habit of mind that I utilize at home and in the classroom. In approaching the prompt I would probably provide more recent examples and talk about my experiences at Tucker like taking AP classes, becoming class president, etc. In terms of which habit of mind needs improvement, I would still address “reflecting on my own thinking” as my greatest area of improvement. Although I have definitely developed this trait, “some habits die hard”. Also it is interesting to see how my diction and voice has changed since eighth grade.
Over my time in the ACA program, my sense of responsibility has developed the most.
Since my eighth grade year my responsibilities at home, at school, and as a student have increased substantially. At home I have become responsible for a myriad of new things, I drive my brother to school, I run errands, and I fulfill some parental duties that my mother can no longer fulfill. Additionally, since eighth grade I have increased my involvement at school, I work with the ACA committee, multiple honor societies and clubs, and I serve as a class officer. In the classroom, my work load has tripled its size since my eighth grade year. However, despite all these responsibilities I am able to live a well-balanced life. Time management, a skill I haven’t perfected, but definitely improved has played a key role in developing my sense of responsibility. In the summer learning community we took at Reynolds before our junior year, I was able to see what areas I needed to improve in and I was able to become more responsible for applying the principles I learned in that class. Additionally, the online Reynolds elective helped me develop my responsibility because I was the only one who was accountable for my grade in the class. The professor didn’t keep track of my progress and it was up to me to complete all the assignments.
I still believe that I need to develop my “ability to reflect on my own learning”. Although
I have developed the skill, and am able to reflect on what I have done on a case to case basis, I need to learn how to do it daily and increase my understanding of what I learned and how I can apply it to my life and everyday actions. Having a research experience at George Washington University taught me to take the things I learned today and work towards applying them tomorrow. Although I was able to take larger concepts and apply them, I must work on taking smaller concepts and apply them to daily situations.
Jomo is a member of the Reynolds ACA Class of 2016 at J.R. Tucker High School, where he is Senior Class President. He has recently been accepted to Stanford University (surely, one of “the best colleges in the world”) in the fall of 2016, where he will be attending on a full scholarship earned through the highly competitive QuestBridge Program.
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