Caught in the 9th Grade Thumbnail

To help kick-start the Yakezie Writing Contest, I’ve decided to share a story about one of my big failures and what I learned.  I don’t qualify to win, but I thought it would be good practice to lead by example and provide an idea of what we are looking for in your essays & posts.  You are free to address any of the three questions anyway you like.  The deadline for the contest is Monday, December 6th at 11:59pm applicant dependent.  Best, Sam

His rough hands yanked both my shoulders back as I turned the escalator corner.  My head whipped from the force and my heart stopped beating.  “Gotcha!” he said as I tried squirming away.  The giant man with a scruffy beard had caught my friend and I for stealing a new pair of Armani jeans and a long sleeve shirt.  My life was over.


My friend, Jeff, who was not really a friend, but a senior class tennis teammate convinced me to be his lookout while he went on a shoplifting spree.  I was a freshman and had just got on the Varsity tennis team and this was his way of hazing me.  “With this test Sam, it’s time to prove you will be a true team player, and not a selfish little rat!” Jeff said with glee.  What was I supposed to do?  Say no, as a freshman who just wanted to fit in and compete on the team?  No, I had to accept what they asked of me or so I thought.

My father came to pick me up from the precinct and my mother stayed at home because she was so ashamed.  I felt horrible and told my parents everything that happened.  There really was no excuse and I apologized profusely.  It didn’t matter.  My parents grounded me for six months, and I was sentenced as a juvenile to perform 50 hours of community service from an unsympathetic judge.  Unfortunately for Jeff, he was tried as an adult, got kicked off the tennis team, and that was the last I ever heard of him because he no longer came to class.


I spent my 50 hours of community service at the Fire Station, where the firemen and firewomen taught me respect, discipline, and punctuality.  I have never met a more dedicated group of men and women than those of Station 8.  They would wake at all hours of the night to answer an alarm.  Sometimes it was a false alarm, sometimes it was a real emergency.  Whatever the scenario, they never once complained.  They were professionals, and that is what I hoped to be.  Their discipline and camaraderie let them forge on through, even in the toughest of times.

By the time I fulfilled my 50 hours of community service I strongly believed I had become a better person.  Despite a revitalization, I would constantly worry about whether colleges would ever give me a chance due to my juvenile indiscretions.  I’d ask myself the questions: “Does it really matter if I study hard and get an A due to my mishap?“, “Why would anybody take a chance on me, when there are dozens of other worthy kids with no run-ins with the law, who have good grades?”  I worried for three long years whether I’d ever go to college.  It’s like going to work every single day, coming in first and leaving last knowing you will never ever be promoted.  No matter.  I continued to train hard for the tennis team, and study relentlessly so that I could give myself at least a chance to compete.


Undaunted by my freshman year, I ended high school with a 3.72 GPA and went 10-1 in tennis my senior year as an All-District selection.  A couple Division III schools came calling, and I was ultimately rejected by one of my target schools, but accepted to another.  During my interview process, I came out and told them what I had done even though I didn’t have to because my record was expunged.  I learned right from wrong and the importance of believing in oneself, no matter how dark the road.  I also learned about forgiveness and what it means to be unwaveringly supportive thanks to my parents.

At the age of 14, I really thought my future was over.  I could have just given up and gone on to be an angry teenager raging against the system.  But, I didn’t allow my failure to fester.  The failure was instead the most amazing motivator that drove me to just try harder!  Certainly I’ve continued to have my fair share of problems since.  However, without facing the judge some 20 years ago, I would be much less of a person than I am today.  Thank you for letting me share my story!



Note: If all goes according to plan, this will be the last post from me for at least a month.  Next week, will will start highlighting Member Articles and then the Yakezie Writing Contest essays!