Don't let your grades write your story

By Jacob Centeno Healy

I was a C-average student in high school and my college counselor told me I didn't have a shot at going to a 4-year university. 

I tried explaining that I had received college funding after my dad was killed in Afghanistan and wanted to at least try my best to get accepted. Apparently, my 2.76 was not going to be enough. So, I asked for a new counselor who actually cared and ultimately helped me get accepted in to two universities.

University of California Santa Cruz was my top choice, but I would only be admitted through the Educational Opportunities Program; meaning I had to do some college prep and more work than other students for a whole year before I would be considered an actual student. It sucked knowing I was "less than" all the other students, but I wasn't going to let my circumstances bring me down. I knew I was just as capable as any other student and was happy to be at a great university.

My first college English and writing professor believed in me, too. Mrs. Gorsky pushed me harder than any teacher I've ever had and taught me one of the greatest lessons, which I still apply in my life to this day.

I got a C- on my first major writing assignmentin Mrs. Gorsky's class while my peers earned A's and B's, it was heartbreaking. The assignment made up nearly a third of my final grade but we had three chances to rewrite it, so I did... all three times. For the rest of the quarter and year, I met with Mrs. Gorsky and my writing tutors 3-5 times a week to work on assignments. I could have settled at any point but I never did- I rewrote every assignment Mrs. Gorsky gave me until I earned the grade I wanted and worked for.

In the end, Mrs. Gorsky gave me an A for my final grade. My hard work had paid off, but it didn't end there. 

I later found out Mrs. Gorsky was the head of the college writing department when she personally recruited me to apply and work as a teacher's writing assistant and tutor. The job paid twice as much as anything I had ever earned and I would now be tutoring my own peers and incoming freshman who, according to the system, were a lot smarter than an EOP student who hadn't even met the college entry level writing requirement yet.

The lesson here is simple and one that I am very proud to share. I don't care what odds you face, whether somebody tells you you're not good enough or you think "everyone else is doing better." - Forget it! 

I went from being told I didn't have what it takes to go to college, all the way to being recruited by the head of a writing department to tutor my own peers. You have what it takes, too, so don't give up and apply these three pieces of advice to your life:

1. Don't let your current situation get you down, no matter who says you are going to fail or what circumstances are holding you back; use it to light your fire and prove everyone wrong!

2. Life is always going to get harder, but feelings of struggle and discontent are temporary. If you can get hit and get back up, you aren't a quitter; but if you can get back up and push forward harder than before, you're a winner.

3. Finally, when you make it to a place you can be proud of- be respectful, humble and grateful to those who helped you get to where you are. I wouldn't have the tools I have today without Mrs. Gorsky and my upcoming book would certainly not be the same without her.

Never, ever settle and don't let anyone or anything stop you from pushing yourself to better at anything you want in life. Hooyah!

Jacob is the surviving son of Senior Chief Dan Healy who was killed during the Operation Red Wings rescue attempt which has since been portrayed in the book and film, Lone Survivor. Since graduating from the University of San Diego with his BA in architecture, Jacob has worked in business in San Diego and Australia and has dedicated himself to raising funds and awareness for various non-profit organizations that are dedicated to serving children of the fallen. He founded - a platform for surviving children to speak out and Jake - a public speaking and relations brand.