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Ashley Ventura's College Essay

Alicia Hansen - Sunday, December 15, 2013

SALT student for 2 years 

Student at Syracuse University 
Scholastic Art Award winner 2013 

The most common question any child is ever asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Before the summer of 2012, I thought, “I’m not a child anymore. 

What do I want to be?” Unfortunately, I still didn’t know the answer. This was where NYC Salt entered the equation. NYC Salt is a non-profit photography organization that helps inner-city youth learn who they are and inspires them to be who they’re truly meant to be. I was recommended to enroll by my guidance counselor, and this organization has changed my life immensely. This was surprising, because I had never gotten an opportunity to fully invest myself in something I found satisfaction in. I have learned to see things with a whole new perspective, and it has motivated me to take every single chance given to me in order to live the happy and successful life I’ve always dreamed of. 

Over the summer of 2012, I was given the chance to attend the School Press Institute at Syracuse University. Accepting this opportunity finally gave me a chance to travel away from home and experience a new environment. Even though I’m from a working class family and acknowledged as a minority, it doesn’t mean I’m not able to create a major goal I can accomplish. I discovered the meaning to “anything is possible,” because while studying there, I felt completely excited by everything I was introduced to. It felt as if I was destined to be there at that moment because I was happy. Not only did I love what I was learning — I loved learning itself. This encouraged me to continue seeking what it is I would like to become. That week convinced me that I was capable of completing any goal I wanted and that I was also capable of dreaming as big as I wanted. Being the daughter of a single mother, I have never been able to afford any kind of enrichment activity as wonderful as the School Press Institute. That experience allowed me to build a bridge of hope for myself. My whole entire life I have been preparing myself to be successful and to fully invest myself in something that truly inspires me. On the quest to fulfill the answer to that mocking question, I have maintained a positive attitude towards everything I have been accomplishing. I’ve participated in many school activities to help me figure out what I would like to be — everything from cooking classes, to track, to dance, to photography. Those activities allowed me to gain marvelous experiences which I am grateful for; however, individually none of them were my calling. Until I went to Syracuse, I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. Now, I am sure that what truly inspires me is the idea of growing as a person. What I want to be when I grow up is the best version of myself. I’m hopeful and anxious for my upcoming journey, where I can share the ideas I’ve gained with people who aspire to be happy and grow limitlessly the same way I do.

Ydalmi Estrella Testimonial

Alicia Hansen - Thursday, May 10, 2012
SALT Student for 3 years. 
Student at Stockton Community College

My name is Ydalmi Argentina Estrella, and I am seventeen years old. I have been studying photography for about three years. It all began when I went on a website called Model Mayhem. Before photography, I wanted to pursue a career in modeling. I would try to set up photo shoots so I could build a portfolio, but I was not successful. On this website, I was inspired by the pictures some of the photographers captured, and thought to myself, "photography might be my calling". 

I decided that I wanted to go from being in front of the lens to behind the lens where I have an opportunity to capture wonderful occurrences in life. After that day, I picked up an old Minolta film camera I had lying around my house, and began shooting. It was a great camera, but after a while, developing the photos became costly. I decided to go online and look for a good camera I could buy that wasn't too expensive. I found a Nikon D40 for $450, and by saving some money every week from my two jobs I managed to buy the camera. Ever since that day, I have been carrying that camera with me everywhere I go. 

Before photography, I felt lost. I did not know what I wanted to do in life. Everyone would always ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", and I’d give a blank stare. With my camera, I've gotten the opportunity to capture pictures that I’d never thought I’d be capable of. I was able to prove to everybody that I could actually be good at something. 

I enjoy taking pictures of open spaces, scenery, abstract nature, and rising models. I could be just about anywhere and take captivating photographs. I consider myself an amateur in photography simply because of the fact that I have so much more to learn. However, I am very proud of my work, and very confident that it can take me far. 

In my NYC Salt program, I’ve gotten the opportunity to gain the confidence in myself I never knew existed. I’ve sold my work and have become rather comfortable speaking in front of a large audience. I am extremely proud and grateful to be a part of such an amazing program. Not only have I developed my photography skills because of this program, but I have also learned how to lose the fear of approaching strangers, learned valuable lessons on how to be professional, learned how to work in a team, and so much more. This program has exposed me to so many great things such as getting scholarships to participate in a photography program at my dream school. 

This previous summer I was given the opportunity to attend the SPI Advanced photography program at Syracuse University. In the limited time I was there, I met some amazing people and experienced many wonderful moments. Our photography teacher for the week, James Kenney, taught me a valuable lesson that I carry with me to this very day. Kenney taught me that not everyone is going to like my work, but despite this, to never give up. This program allowed me to expand my horizon on the various types of photography out there and just go for anything I set my mind to. This program also gave me a gist of what the college life was like, and I loved every single minute of it.


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