From the White House to the Quad: College life & lessons learned from the “Beating the Odds” Summit

My name is Chelsea Bueno. I am 18 years old, born and raised in Queens, New York and have been part of the Ravenswood II program of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation since I was in the third grade.

I just began my freshman year at Manhattanville College. A few months ago, I attended an event at the White House called the “Beating the Odds” Summit. The event, held by the First Lady’s “Better Make Room” initiative and co-sponsored by the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, was hosted by Michelle Obama for students who have gone above and beyond to pursue their education. I was fortunate to be chosen to be a part of this event.

A quick selfie on our way into the White House for the “Beating the Odds” Summit. L-R: Dreamer Chelsea Bueno; Karlisle Honore, New York Metro’s Program Director of the Ravenswood program; Donna Lawrence, IHDF president & CEO; and Maritza Guzman, IHDF Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships

At the event, Mrs. Obama and other panelists spoke about the value of going to college and getting a higher education. They also spoke about the struggles on the path through college — but made it clear to not let the struggles stop you from reaching your higher goal. Mrs. Obama told us to always ask questions. She told us to never be afraid to ask questions because when you ask questions, you learn more.

When I stepped onto my college campus, the first thing I did was ask questions. It helped me a lot for my first few days, because I was in a completely different environment and asking questions allowed me to adjust more quickly. Though asking questions was very useful, I still struggled with adjusting to the college lifestyle — things like remembering to depend on my syllabus to know what homework is due, organizing my schedule, and skipping fun activities to do work. These are huge transitions I have to get accustomed to and I know they are going to be challenging, but I always remember Mrs. Obama saying that the struggles we go through now are just obstacles on the way to our bigger goal.

One way I’m overcoming my challenges is by putting reminders on my phone about assignments stated on my syllabus. This allows me to remember to do my homework because my phone tells me when to do my work and when it is due. My phone replaces a teacher telling me when to do my homework, which is something I was accustomed to in high school. Another useful strategy has been using the resources I have on campus, such as using the study hall, meeting every other week with my MAP advisor, and meeting with my teachers when I don’t understand the materials.

My college campus at Manhattanville College

One skill I definitely need to work on more is my time management. I have a habit of procrastinating on things that I find difficult to work on. I am slowly working on it by meeting with a mentor I was assigned to in school. I meet with her once a week and she makes sure I am on time with my work. I still have a hard time managing my time but I don’t let this one obstacle prevent me from pushing forward.

Listening to Mrs. Obama and the other panelists talk to us about the struggles they went through in college reminded me that it’s all worth it at the end. This lesson keeps me motivated to finish school and excited to see my outcome, no matter how hard it is to get to the top!