Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

When I first landed in America to live with my mother after being raised by my grandparents, I was in third grade and knew only a handful of English words. As a single parent, my mother had to leave for work early every morning, while I went to school on my little purple bicycle with sparkling streamers. Even though I envied other children, all of them dutifully sent to and picked up from school, I never regretted my circumstances. My lifestyle helped me become more independent. After school, I came home to a small, lonely apartment, struggling to finish reading a picture book as I waited for my mom. Sure enough, the hours alone passed by quickly as I started to travel with the characters of the Magic Tree House series. One after another, I gobbled the chapters up and soon moved onto the darker adventures of Jane Eyre and The Iliad.

Music was another trusted companion when I was home alone. Notes floated off my piano and painted the empty space. The toy baton flew in the air and brought me to my fledgling dream of becoming the middle school band drum major, and soon enough, imagination became reality. I felt so proud, leading the group around the streets for my city’s Rodeo Parade, until I saw my first high school marching band field show. Watching 300 people moving around on the field in synchronicity, creating beautiful shapes, I could only imagine what it must feel like to be part of such vast coordination.

Joining my high school band was like stepping into another world. Twice a week, with sunscreen slathered all over me, I stood under the blisteringly hot sun, trying to keep my breath up as I moved my feet in time with the insistent metronome. Keeping up with my band commitments required me to dedicate my full mental capacity — both talent and hard work — to creating something worthwhile.

Our band director and section leaders were part of what kept us coming back: they demanded the best from each of us and motivated us to go beyond our limits; they fostered a loving and supportive atmosphere; they were my role models. In my junior and senior years, I was appointed leader of our 40-member flute section. The memories that band has given me are what I wanted to give back by taking this kind of initiative — by sharing the joy and camaraderie.

At every stage of my life, I relished the challenges and opportunities presented to me. From the humblest of beginnings, I moved on to the serendipity of my marching band and all the people in it. They taught me lessons about the importance of dedication and perseverance, the power of teamwork. With confidence in my abilities, I look forward to the next stage: the rewards of hard work, the possibility of constant change, and professors and classmates who share my dream of building a better world — and better selves — together.

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