Daniel believes in the power of personal will.
“People have more control over their lives than they think they do,” noted the soon-to-be freshman at Drexel University. “My mom taught me that. You have to be the change that you want; it may not happen initially, and it’s okay to ask for help. But you make the change.”
Change and transition and ambition are all words that are central to Daniel’s experience. Growing up in West Philadelphia, Daniel excelled in middle school, and when he was accepted to Central High School, figured it would be a breeze. It was anything but, as he had trouble balancing his social and academic life and felt like he was falling behind.
“I put all this work in to just get into Central,” he said. “And suddenly, I’m losing confidence, and I’m struggling, and watching everyone else do well. It was a shock. I thought, ‘maybe I should give up now, since there’s no way to come out on top.’”
Daniel didn’t give up, though. Searching for opportunities, more so than ever before, he sacrificed some extracurricular activities to focus on school. Daniel was introduced to JEVS Human Services via the Dorothy M. Cohen College Prep Program–funded by Bob Cohen, Central H.S. alum and long-time board member and friend of JEVS–through which he took a five-week SAT prep class during his junior year that was taught by JEVS Youth Services. Daniel’s SAT score increased by 270 points and recognizing his great attitude and potential, the team took notice!
“Daniel has an extremely strong work ethic, a high level of motivation, leadership potential and academic talent,” said Sue Bilsky, College Advisor, JEVS Youth Services. “I recommended to him that he take part in the Work Ready summer program. Of course, he said ‘Yes!’ like we knew he would.”
Placed at Bartram’s Gardens, Daniel taught lesson plans to youth at summer camp. Not only was his supervisor pleased with Daniel’s work, but Daniel’s even temper, calmness and teamwork mentality led him to help a colleague with work issues–resulting in his colleague’s success and growing her personal job satisfaction. When JEVS staff asked for volunteers to develop a presentation for Philadelphia Youth Network–the parent organization and program funder of Work Ready–Daniel immediately volunteered his time, quietly commanding the process while building effective relationships with students from throughout Philadelphia and other youth programs.
“I learned a lot about professionalism,” he said. “I learned that summer that you can’t let any opportunities pass you by.” Already galvanized by some initial successes, Daniel vowed that each semester’s grades would be better. To overcome personal challenges, hang with friends and strengthen his profile for colleges, Daniel joined a cross country team and the swimming team–despite not being able to swim! With a “Never Quit” attitude, by senior year, Daniel was consistently finishing his races with a run instead of a walk and placed in several swim races.
Daniel’s enthusiasm spilled over into his academic performance. He won first place in a school poetry contest. He won a speech contest to speak at graduation, and a prestigious award for service, while also serving on the yearbook committee and school newspaper staff.
“It was really no surprise to see him doing well, then or now,” said Bilsky. “Daniel is just relentless in his pursuit of success.” That success culminated when, taking advantage of essay guidance provided by Bilsky and the JEVS Youth Services team, Daniel called to announce that he had been accepted into Drexel–with a full scholarship.
“I couldn’t wait to tell my extended family the good news,” he laughed. Requiring high academic credentials, an application, a formal essay and interview, Daniel is just one of 50 incoming freshmen to receive this prestigious award, which he plans to use to pursue his true passions: writing, filming and editing.
“Daniel is a terrific role model,” said Bilsky. “He’s driven, but he always remembers to help others along the way.”
For his part, Daniel is ready for the challenge of college–having faced one academic hurdle already, he’s ready for whatever comes his way; it may be in his blood!
“I really want to make an impact,” he said. “I had no idea that the lessons my parents had instilled in me growing up would help me develop into such a strong person. I owe them everything.”