Tamia Santiago is a graduating senior and Class of 2017 Valedictorian at Roxborough High School. She has been involved in the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s Cadence Youth Cycling Program (“CYC”) since her freshman year.
Tamia is a CYC All Star who has participated in the CYC Race Team, Triathlon Team, and Cyclocross Team. She also served for two years on the CYC Youth Advisory Committee, and has developed into a respected leader among her peers. Through her involvement with CYC, Tamia has gained confidence in her public speaking (helping her prepare for her upcoming Valedictorian speech) and has had the opportunity to develop her writing skills as a BCGP summer intern writing blog articles.
Tamia’s biggest takeaway from being a part of CYC can be summed up in one word: Family. She describes the instant bond formed between her and her fellow CYC cyclists the moment they get onto their bikes for a ride. Tamia will be attending Drexel University next year, and we wish her the best of luck in her next step in life, knowing that she has the skills to succeed at whatever she chooses.
– Ed Chang, Bicycle Coalition Board Member
Tamia’s College Admittance Essay:
I am the forgotten class. Too poor to comfortably live, yet too rich to be eligible for a simple guidance in life, as simple as a college program. I am America’s middle child. At birth you promised me any possibility, but my importance faded as I got older and a new generation was born.
Experience stains the soles of my shoes scuffing every logo and prideful piece giving it character. Transitioning from building blocks to textbooks was not a harsh reality but an opportunity. At fourteen, distractions and discouragement flooded neighborhood streets and TV screens. Populated school yards turned to abandoned schools with an occasional scrap of metal brushing by. Our district is in debt. My future is no longer funded.
Those words of encouragement turned to, “don’t waste your time.” The very shoes I have taken years to break into were glued to society’s story book. So I wiggle in fruitless attempt to break free but I fall as they lay stiff. So I crawl, bare, out of the comfort of familiarity to save a dream that could so easily be deferred.
I am a student. I am a daughter. I am a child. Old enough to attend their institution, yet too young to tell them their methods are outdated. I am a valedictorian. I am an athlete. I am a leader. Yet still I stand underqualified for their finest education. I am a voice. I am the outlier but most importantly I am not a statistic of their failure. I am a success story awaiting an acceptance letter.
Where I come from there are more sob stories than success but I never asked why nor wanted to figure out how. I have distinguished myself from this loop. When you asked youth from my neighborhood how they stay busy some might say sports, most say work, but I say cycling. My bike is not an object but a tool to a better me and a better future.
This tool took me beyond the perspective of my neighborhood and even the scope of my city. It flew me to Seattle and Minnesota, and then sat me in a conference room with senate representatives to discuss what I wanted to see for my city.
My bike gave me a reason. A reason that had seemed to be forgotten by my seventh year of schooling now watered my crisp hope of escaping. Biking cleats aided my bare feet as I walked through my high school career building my identity.
College is the next step but the certainty of it being the bridge to my success is unknown. I must absorb every lesson and opportunity given. I do not see college by its physicality but its social status. It houses networks to the most prestigious individuals and markets. They say that paper is the key to your job but the friends you make within this institution determine your career. I have not taken any acceptance lightly and I will not throw away any opportunity, for big or small they piece together my journey. College is in my vision but not in its end.
I am a journey. I am a cyclist. I am Philadelphia’s next generation.