For some, college is a given. For Enoch Jemmott, it almost wasn’t an option.
Coming from a low-income family and under-resourced high school, Enoch — along with many of his peers — had to navigate the college application and financial aid systems on their own. In Enoch’s case, he not only had to get himself through the maze-like application process, but he was simultaneously working to provide the same opportunities for his classmates. His journey getting into college while working as a peer college counselor is documented in the Emmy-nominated film Personal Statement from WORLD Channel.
Nearly four years after the long journey to get to college, here is Enoch’s story.
This is part of our “Life After High School” campaign in collaboration with the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs. We asked high school students and graduates about the expectations and realities they had about “Life After High School.”
College was always a dream for me.
I would lay on my bed and see my collegiate team cheering me on as my family crowds the stands with enormous ‘Go Enoch!!’ signs held high. All through high school, I not only took my academics extremely seriously, but sports was the vital passion that kept my heart beating. I simply loved being an athlete. I figured my college career was going to be just as wondrous as my high school career. I would imagine a continuous reign of personal records, and a flurry of highlights brightening my path down the road to being the MVP on the All Star team.
If only it had all worked out that way.
When I got to college, my team spent more time worrying about me than cheering for me. Instead of being in the stands screaming, ‘Go Enoch!’ my sister would call and feign optimism saying, “You’ll get better soon. Your doctor says it can be fixed, don’t worry.”
A dislocated shoulder rewrote my college story. I was terrified that my athletic career had come to an end.
I immediately went into a state of deep depression. I just fell apart. My attendance in classes dwindled, I stayed in my room from dusk to dawn, and didn’t even want to eat food some days. My dream of playing college football had fallen apart. And I was not prepared to deal with the disappointment on my own. It’s kind of scary because the freedom that college provides students has a downside. I was completely and totally independent. As things were falling apart, I realized part of the problem was that it was no one’s job to make sure I was keeping up with my classes and eating all my meals. Eventually, I realized that in fact, it was someone’s job: mine.
While my first year of college didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, it was transformative. I feel like I became a man – someone who is capable of going through hardships and remain emotionally stable. Now there wasn’t anyone making sure that I showed up to class – so I had to become the foot that kicked myself out of bed in the morning.
It is never fun to let go, but I overcame an unsolicited realization that sometimes you have to re-calibrate your dreams. I cherished the enrichment that I received through sports, but came to accept that endings can often be beautiful too. Just look at sunsets!
Written by Enoch Jemmott, Class of 2020 at Queens College.
Enoch Jemmott is a rising senior at Queens College studying communications. He was one of three documentary subjects for the Emmy-nominated film Personal Statement which follows three Brooklyn high school seniors aspiring to be the first generation in their families to attend college and coaching their peers through the college process. After school, he plans to work in media production where he will creatively shed light on issues he believes the world needs to know about.