Claremont McKenna College

Timothy Valdez '19

Prompt: Common Application Essay

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about that may help us evaluate your nomination (i.e., personal characteristics, obstacles you have overcome)?


Who was she? Why would she do this? Was there something wrong with me?

I was eight years old when my parents split up. Their paths diverted as a new one began for me, one where I shut everyone out. My emotions and physical health became unimportant and insomnia brought heavy purple eyelids that were weighed down with exhaustion. I felt non-existent.

My mom left because she was having issues with the rest of my family. When she left, I felt disposable because she never came back or attempted to contact me. She was the cause of my despair because her actions made me feel unimportant, unintelligent, and voiceless. I was neglected while other kids were given hugs and kisses. This fueled my social and academic decline, gradually consuming my identity.

At school I had no motivation to learn and I felt like no one supported me. My classmates' condescending eyes pierced my empty reflection, making me feel voiceless and invisible. Their indifference laid out a plan for my life: a plan that would make me the unintelligent, the kid who got lost. Their judgment framed me as someone who would float adrift in the school system and eventually become a dropout. I thought, "Maybe these kids are right; maybe I am worthless."

These feelings continued through the next few years. Unfortunately, in seventh grade, I was the victim of a severe car accident. I was crossing a street when a car hit me, and the driver left me lying on the road, never stopping to check on me, not caring if I lived or died. The trauma and lacerations almost took my life and forced me into bed-rest for five months. In many ways, the accident triggered the buried feelings I had about my mother and how she similarly hurt me and never came back to help. Through my near-death experience, I saw a vision of myself disappearing. I had reached the darkest possible place I could imagine, but I was still surviving. I slowly recovered, and I realized that I wanted to live a life full of purpose. This realization fueled me to work toward healing my physical and emotional injuries.

It took me fifteen years to begin to figure out who this boy from Baldwin Park could truly be and I am still learning. I started to figure out who I was, but most importantly, who I wanted to be. Persevering through my accident and the negligence and indifference from others was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. My first introductions to life were through suffering and being lost in emptiness, but now I know that's not all life. I no longer pay attention to people's indifferences towards me because the only thing that matters is that I have faith in myself. With all the struggles I have faced, I am able to share my experiences and wisdom, and help others to reflect on their own struggles.

Being a low-income, first generation student has taught me that it is important to be aware of issues in our communities and to work together to clear the obstacles placed before us. Recently, I spoke at a district school board meeting about how local students are not given the educational benefits of other schools. This is only the beginning, I will continue to advocate for students, like myself, who feel voiceless or ignored. Doing so will allow me to continue developing my identity as I inspire others too.

I am Timothy Valdez. My mother left me when I was eight years old. That once defined me, but I no longer blame her for my struggles. I see those struggles as the biggest opportunities for me to persevere.


This is a beautifully and artistically crafted essay that shows what Timothy struggled with, but what he learned from it. As stated by himself in the last paragraph, " I see those struggles as the biggest opportunities for me to persevere," Timothy shows the readers that he is able to take his adversity and make it into an opportunity for him to make better and change. This is the kind of student a college would want!

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