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The Colonel Chronicle

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Denisa Iljas: Pollen is to Bees as Education is to Humans

“Denisa, vazhdo shkollën”

My mom would say this after coming back from work, usually at around 11:30 at night, while we are both awake. Sometimes she would say the English version,”Denisa, go to school,” with her beautiful accent, with dark circles under her eyes and wrinkled scrubs. During this time, mom was a personal care assistant at a hospital. She worked like a bumble bee except without wings. As we talked, she unraveled how she buzzed from door to door, from floor to floor, to room number 45A for the old man who hadn’t eaten lunch yet, or to 39B the young girl who needed to use the restroom. Like the final pollination at the end of a bee’s journey, my mom would say “vazhdo shkollën.”

Denisa Iljas ’24.

As a freshman in high school, I didn’t know what she meant by “go to school.” I had a pencil in hand, notebook lined up, and computer buzzing. In my drawer, “perfect attendance” certificates were neatly folded in my desk, beneath all the books. I wondered, what more could I do? 

Three years later, as a senior in high school, I understand what “vazhdo shkollën,” the Albanian version of “continue going to school,” really means. 

My mom always had a passion for medicine. But it was hard for her to be able to practice her passion. As an immigrant from Albania, she worked back-breaking jobs as a cook at McDonalds or as a cashier at Dunkin Donuts. Then, she got closer to her passion when she studied to get her license as a personal care assistant. 

However, she still felt like a bumble bee without wings. 

She buzzed and buzzed but wasn’t able to glide from room to room. She loved to take care of people, but being a personal care assistant meant constant overworking. Yet, she continued to fly with her passion. My mom’s resilience taught me that hardwork is key. 

Three years later, as a senior in high school, I have gained my own passion. I am passionate about physics. I dream of being an engineer who is working on the newest design for bridges. Or, simply, of using my engineering skills to be like Mark Rober, the engineer turned Youtuber, to solve everyday problems in life. From building glitter bombs to stop porch pirates, to building an obstacle course for squirrels, Rober inspired me that it is possible to build my own gadgets and solutions. Once again, however, it is because my mom’s passion has spread to me. 

Right now, however, I work at a grocery store. Rather than calculating the force of gravity and tension acting on a bridge, I’m looking at the mom shopping for her kid’s lunches and at the old woman buying scratch tickets. When a customer can’t speak English, I quickly respond in fluent Albanian or in choppy Spanish, whichever they speak. If the bags are too heavy for a customer, I bring them over to the shopping cart and ask if they need help with the car. Although I am not practicing my passion, I still work hard because I know, thanks to my mom, that hard work will lead me to my passion and goals. 

Ultimately, my mom was able to take online classes and earn the position as an EEG technician. She learned about the correct technique on placing electrodes on patients’ heads, and reading the waves on the monitor to see if the electrode placement was correct.. 

My mom finally became a bumble bee with bright white wings. She uses them to glide from patient to patient. 

Three years later, at 11:30 at night, we continue to meet at the same desk. I notice how my mom’s ironed scrubs are covered in glue, as I trace up the flower patterns to reach her smiling face. She no longer tells me how tired she feels or how swollen her legs are. But, she still says “vazhdo shkollën”. After three years, I understand as my pencil moves across the paper. She has always engraved the idea that education can make you succeed as it really did for her. “Vazhdo shkollën” is like the pollen that makes bees so successful.

Here’s what Denisa said about her essay:

I started my college essay writing process by looking at essay prompts and I wrote down some possible ideas. Then, I started realizing some of those ideas by writing the actual essays. I had a variety of ideas, but the draft to this essay was my favorite, so I stuck to this topic and I spent weeks editing and improving it. At the end, I was very proud of the essay, so I showed it to my English teacher, Ms. Ledoux. 

After a few more edits, I finalized my essay and submitted it to colleges. I like my essay because it showcases a lot about who I am as a person while celebrating my mom’s perseverance. I think this is the most important part of a college essay because at the end of the day, the college you’re applying to wants to know more who YOU are as a person.

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