It's "Why Dartmouth?" Time – Part 2 (Home)
*note: This is the second iteration of my two-part "Why Dartmouth?" story/narrative. This post reflects on my decision to attend Dartmouth after getting accepted and the process of transitioning from rural Arkansas to Hanover, New Hampshire and how my life changed accordingly. IF you have not read the first post about my story, please read it first! ™
After I had all but made the decision to go to a local state college with good financial aid and a driving distance away from home, I looked into some of the top colleges in the nation. I came across schools like Yale and Princeton and the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins. I remember telling myself out loud something like, "boy that would be nice," with a kind of snicker at the end. I'm not certain the phrase I typed into the search bar or the website I navigated to, but I remember coming across this college website that featured the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen with smiling faces, beautiful architecture, picturesque snow, and a whole lot of "green" on the page. I do remember a quote I found on this "Dartmouth College's" website: "Soon you'll see every corner of the campus, and the world, as your laboratory." It all fit. I scrutinized this college. The more I researched, the more I was reminded of the quaint town I grew up in and how I always found solace in the earth that surrounded me, by its beauty and by its therapeutic capabilities. Dartmouth was the only selective school I applied to after that. I felt in my heart that this was going to be my home. It all made sense. Finally, after all the stuff I had gone through in the college process, it all came together.
It was never a question of whether or not I would "get into" Dartmouth. Immediately after applying, I knew that this is where I was supposed to go to college and that the universe has a funny way of making things happen if they are supposed to happen. On April 6th, 2021 I was riding back with my coach from a golf match to a district tournament. He knew me well enough to know my story. I just checked my application portal and saw that I got into Dartmouth, and I was initially surprised but deep down I knew I would get in. I talked with my coach. I didn't think it was realistic for me to move halfway across the country, leaving behind a sickly grandmother and my brother and sister with my parents. Again, deep down I knew this was where I was going to college. I felt that my heart was attached to this small little college in the middle of the woods. I never visited Dartmouth, but I didn't need to. The sprawling city life wasn't for me, and Dartmouth was the best decision I could make to maximize my future opportunities while having a community and being a part of something great.
When I told my grandmother where I planned to go to college, she was initially skeptical (she was under the impression I was attending a college much closer to home when I told her) but she immediately supported my decision. She saw that my dedication throughout high school, the ability to strive through life's problems, and the trueness of my heart deserved a college worthy of adding to my life's story. Just like me, she realized this was the place meant for me. After graduating high school, that entire summer was dedicated to spending time with family and preparing to attend Dartmouth College. A first generation, extremely low income student with dreams to chase was ready to tackle his first year of college. My nana saw it in my eyes. When it was time to leave for Dartmouth in early August, for the FYSEP program, we planned a road trip from southeast Missouri to Hanover, New Hampshire. It was me, my nana, and Carl (my nanas companion). This road trip will be one of the greatest memories in my life. I am like my nana in many ways, full of perseverance, a heart full of kindness (sometimes too full), a work ethic like no other, and a stubbornness that got us to a good position in life. This road trip is something I hold near and dear to my heart. It wasn't just for me; my nana also got to see the country and live vicariously through me. When we got to campus, I think she could tell I was at home. Even though I'm sure it was nerve wracking for her to send me away in the moment, I think I brought her peace showing her my future home. I gave her a hug just outside the Hop Museum to catch the Dartmouth Coach for her flight back to Missouri. She wasn't a woman in touch with her compassionate side or in tune with her emotions, but everything that needed to be said was expressed in the look in her eyes and the hug she gave me. It was perfect. She passed away this past Christmas eve, but I'm at peace knowing I brought her solace in the last months of her life. It was her mission to raise me and see me do great things, and she did just that.
My "Why Dartmouth" story isn't a narrative I'm telling to show you how bad my life was before coming to Dartmouth or to give the impression of the "heroic" tale of the kid who experienced a bad childhood "making it" to the next level. Nope. My recollection of why I chose Dartmouth is more than just choosing a college or a home for the next few years. It was a statement to myself, to my friends and family, and eventually to the world that I will chase my biggest dreams and aspirations for the rest of my life. Coming to Dartmouth was a testimony that I can overcome any obstacle in my future. Every time I'm walking the halls of a Dartmouth building or staring up at Baker Berry tower while walking across the Green, I'm reminded of my story. I'm just now starting to realize that the "Why Dartmouth" portion of my story isn't a culmination of anything; Rather, it is a new and exciting chapter that adds to my book of life.