I was once asked, what was the greatest lesson I had learned from being a student athlete? My response was "to always believe that anything is possible. There are days that are tougher and more demanding than others, but those are also the most rewarding days in your life when you look back on it. So it has been an important lesson for me to remind myself and others to always believe that anything is possible."
Along with the pressure to win every match is the pressure to pass every math test. Not only must you excel in the classroom as an academic, but it is expected of you, as an athlete to spend countless hours working on your craft in individual workout sessions, showing up to practices, and watching film.
In the 8th grade, I was one of the only female-students in my class who began receiving interest from college coaches. At the time, being recruited so early in my basketball career definitely felt like a great achievement, but as I got older I began to spend more time thinking about the pros and cons of early my recruitment.
By the time I became a collegiate student-athlete I'd ask often ask myself who benefited from this process and how could I tell? More importantly, how did the founding fathers, school choice, and professional athletes taking a knee all shape my understanding of the relationship that exist between sports and politics.
FACT: By the age of 6, the United States Government requires all children to be enrolled in compulsory school and shall remain enrolled until the age of 16.
I was born in Queens, NYC and when I turned 4 my mother moved to a town called Flushing. By the time I turned 6 years old my mother enrolled me into an elementary school up the road from our house. The picture you see to the right is my elementary school.
I attended P.S. 22 from grades K-6 and never realized, until I was much older, that the name on my school was not P.S.22 but the "Thomas Jefferson School". I had always referred to my elementary school as P.S. 22 because thats how everyone in New York City would reference their school.
I remember, vividly, how shocked I was to learn that I attended the Thomas Jefferson School and not just "P.S.22". I raced home that day and asked my mother who Thomas Jefferson was and she simply replied "one of the U.S. presidents". That was her answer and she left it at that. I wasn't satisfied with the answer and I wanted to know more so I went to the internet and typed in his name. I learned quickly that Thomas Jefferson was a founding father of the U.S.A; he wrote the declaration of independence; and he died on July 4th.
After graduating from P.S. 22, I attended a catholic school in East Elmhurst, New York City. During my time at St. Gabe's, my catholic school, I continued playing basketball and was lucky enough to receive a basketball scholarship to attend a private catholic high school.
In 2009, I accepted a basketball scholarship to play at Christ The King Regional High School. Receiving a scholarship to attend CTK was both an honor and a privilege. Many great male and female professional basketball athletes such as Sue Bird, Lamar Odom, and Chamique Holdsclaw all played and graduated from CTK.
I attended CTK for three years as the starting point guard on the Women's basketball team. My time on the team was great until my junior year. Ultimately, my college recruiting process began to ramp up and I felt like being at Christ The King didn't academically prepare to excel in the classroom at the next level.
I wanted to leave Christ The King, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy. In the basketball world, the move was too political. Sports journalist began to reach out and interrogate me about the move. I was 16 at the time and wasn't sure how to make sense of it all so I consulted my mother and we spoke for hours about my recruiting process.
But I had to stick through the challenge. I knew I couldn't let my mother down. Going back home wasn't an option so I did my best and to stuck it through the first year. Eventually, I made a lot of new friends and started to enjoy learning again. I was taking classes that interested me and playing basketball wasn't my only priority so it felt good to be able to just play basketball again.
My senior year came and it was time to make a decision on college. I was being heavily recruited by division 1 schools but my heart wasn't set on just playing basketball in college. I wanted to pursue a better education than the one I received at Lawrenceville while having the opportunity to play basketball competitively as well.
I truly began to learn about school choice and the proposed policies around it when I was personally asked my members of at the American Federation for Children to share my educational journey at their 2017 National Policy Summit.
The story I shared was personal but it highlighted the importance of basketball in my journey. Without being recruited to play basketball in college and without receiving basketball scholarships to attend high school I would have not been able to exercise my right to school choice. More importantly, my educational needs would have never been met and pursuing a high education would have never became a reality for me.