CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, 17
Carlos Rodriguez is a youth activist born in Queens but raised in the Bronx, New York. He is extremely passionate about bringing empowerment and positive social change to his community. Currently, he is a senior at the Eagle Academy for Young Men. Rodriguez has served as the student body president at Eagle Academy for two years and has facilitated many important initiatives, most notably a shoe drive and an annual college fair to bring the college access to his peers.
Rodriguez is also a Student Ambassador for a nonprofit organization, Global Glimpse, which prepares U.S. high school students for a more globalized world by developing leadership skills and connecting with others through life-changing experiences. He has aided this organization in their mission to give youth first-hand exposure to different countries for a powerful and transformative educational experience.
As the son of Ecuadorian immigrants who came to America looking for a better life, he has been lucky to have dual perspectives of the world around him. By being both an American with a sense of what it means to be a foreigner, he is able to make connections and enhance his comprehension of modern-day politics. Rodriguez is particularly passionate about working against racism and colorism, as well as promoting environmental sustainability. After graduating Eagle Academy, Rodriguez plans to attend the University of Virginia and major in Environmental or Political Science with a minor in Creative Writing.
by Carlos Rodriguez
“IN THE FELL CLUTCH OF CIRCUMSTANCE, I HAVE NOT WINCED NOR CRIED ALOUD. UNDER THE BLUDGEONINGS OF CHANCE, MY HEAD IS BLOODY, BUT UNBOWED...”” I join in reciting the words to Invictus with my 100 other classmates during Town Hall that morning. It is a tradition that began for me in 6th grade when I became a student at the Eagle Academy for Young Men. The second stanza of Invictus is embedded in my heart and has built an inextinguishable fire within me. My fire is contagious, as I am perceived as a superhero by those around me due to this supernatural drive to be among the stars. But for every superhero, there is a tragedy that has shaped them to be the person they are today.
I recall laying on the cold hard floor. I stare at the ceiling, tears starting to run down. “Why am I so worthless?Why can’t I just disappear?” These were the daunting questions that kept replaying, like a broken music record etched into my mind. At the early age of 10, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. It was a weight on my shoulders that became heavier each year, my thoughts steeped in melancholy as time went on. I knew eventually, that the thoughts of worthlessness that permeated my mind would eventually overflow. When that breaking point was reached, my scholastic career and social life were on the line, and my tunnel vision had began to fade away into the darkness. I remember vividly the night after my last ray of hope had vanished before me. I made a potential life changing decision. The thoughts of being worthless and wanting to escape reality flooded my mind, intensifying through every passing minute. I started to ponder if the world around me would change if I were to follow through, and my mind suddenly became a battlefield of morals. Then, the question arrived: “Should I commit suicide?”
The several minutes of reflection felt like an eternity, but the echoes in my head won in the end. I tried everything, but nothing worked. I became infuriated, adamant on disappearing right then and there. I cried in despair and anger as I drowned in my own tears, scorching my cheeks with every droplet.
However, there was something still holding me back. I realized then that this force was none other than the reflection of my mother on the mirror as she watched what I had tried to accomplish. I became frozen, as my own sullied eyes matched hers. This moment of complete vulnerability became the first stepping stone for change. I shared my thoughts and emotions candidly. It was that same night I made a promise to myself and my mother that I would ever attempt to hurt myself ever again.
For the first time in my life I accepted myself for who I was, and wholeheartedly decided to continue writing my story. Life has a way of humbling us all! I surely have been humbled, but I have also hurdled life’s obstacles with my head held high. Like enduring a punch to the gut, it briefly takes my breath away but not the fight in my heart. Whenever I want to quit, I am reminded of those times I chose to rise after being knocked down. I am convinced that my hard work does not go in vain, and hard work has allowed me to achieve. Along with resiliency, I learned another valuable lesson...humility. It taught me that getting knocked down and hitting rock bottom is sometimes just par for the course, part of the process. Now as I look ahead to my college career and the countless challenges that await me; I remember the eloquent stanza in the poem Invictus: “IN THE FELL CLUTCH OF CIRCUMSTANCE, I HAVE NOT WINCED NOR CRIED ALOUD. UNDER THE BLUDGEONINGS OF CHANCE, MY HEAD IS BLOODY, BUT UNBOWED...””