by Dori Sol
Shout-out to the Black American community.
You gave me a better chance at life. I love you, my kin.
I would've never made it without you.
The American Dream, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “the ideal that every citizen of the United States should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” Notice it says citizen, not person. Notice it says should have, not can have.
I was only a little girl when I started to understand that this notion of “equal” opportunity was truly an idea, not a reality.
In the halls of Mott Hall School in Harlem, the concept of high school applications was introduced in seventh grade. "Study for the Specialized High School Exam, study for the SSAT," they urged. These standardized tests were the gateways to a quality education.
I understood early on that securing a genuine chance at the game of life meant navigating these hurdles. And so began my journey through the obstacle course that is the American education system.
I applied to the A Better Chance Program, aka ABC, a nonprofit helping Black, Latino, and Indigenous youth gain access to prestigious college preparatory high schools. Y cuando digo, “college prep” es decir que esas escuelas son hechas específicamente para preparar a sus estudiantes para triunfar en la universidad. ABC took my scores, transcript, and essays and sent them to 7 private schools in the northeast. I was denied admission from all of them.
Gracias a nuestro Dios divino - I got another chance.
The ABC program had another way up - their community school program.
I got a call from Barbara, head of the Fayetteville-Manlius ABC board at the time. “Hi! We got your application from ABC National and want to offer you an opportunity at our community school boarding program. You would live in a three-bedroom house shared between 6-8 girls, all from New York City, and attend our local school, FM High School, for free.”
I know what Dominicans are thinking - FREE Housing? How?
The house was funded by the community - residents got together and pulled their resources to purchase this home with the intention of making a difference. Osea, usaron el dinero que tenían de sobra y compraron una casa para importar city kids to attend their public schools.
This was a win-win because the chosen few brown kids selected for this opportunity were able to get a better education, aka A Better Chance at life, AND los estudiantes privilegiados de los suburbs would get exposure to students of diverse backgrounds, aka the real world.
As soon as they gave me this offer, I accepted. I did not see the house or the school before going. This was before the iPhone, of course. It was a chance I had to take.
Being admitted to the ABC program was a game changer.
At Fayetteville-Manlius High School, nestled in the white suburbs of Syracuse, NY— a 5 hour drive from my New York City, I glimpsed a different reality— a reality I had only seen on TV shows like Boy Meets World. It’s true you don’t know how poor you are until you see how the other half lives.
My high school boasted sprawling fields, robust AP programs, and a vibrant theater scene. Luxuries that were not awarded to city kids due to space and money limitations. Mind you, these students didn't apply for admission; their residency dictated their access.
I wondered: How could New York City be the global epicenter while its public schools remained underfunded?
The answer became clear: inner city wealthy families sent their children to private schools, bypassing public education—either way, the white kids were taken care of.
And side note - dejame decirte que it 's like this around the world. When I studied abroad in Denmark, I learned about all the human rights and government benefits offered to their people. Allá en Dinamarca el gobierno se encarga del cuidado médico para todas las personas. Creeme que hasta a mi, que viajaba con visa de estudiante, pude ir al doctor y the cost $0. También las universidades son GRATIS para todos los residentes, y a los que se dedican a estudiar más allá de la secundaria, le pagan una mensualidad. Pa que lo sepa. Pero oye lo lindo - la gente decía que cuando comenzaron a dejar entrar inmigrantes de otros países no europeo - comenzaron a cambiar las reglas. El gobierno quería apoyar a quien quería apoyar. Y así mismo es así. Cada quien apoya a su gente.
Back to the story - Going away to highschool was a launching pad for my career.
I got a full college scholarship to Wesleyan University through the QuestBridge National Scholarship Match Program! Thank you, Liz, to my advisor, who worked with me so much on editing my essay. Thank you, Cliff, from Wesleyan Admissions, for letting me in!
Deloitte Consulting—a corporate giant, notified me that I was admitted to their Business Analyst class in New York City in the Strategy and Operations department. Thank you, Stephen, for letting me in!
I graduated in Psychology and Economics at Wesleyan University and was thereafter employed at Deloitte—a corporate giant. I moved back to New York and started working for Deloitte.
August 2013 - 2020
At Deloitte, my career flourished, but the toll on my mental health grew. Working late nights past midnight was not uncommon. Also, the travel was crazy!
Cuando estaba trabajando para Nike, mi cliente, I was flying cross country to Portland Oregon semanal Monday to Thursday - mi gente that’s a 6 hour flight each way pa que sepan la pela. Yo no tenía tiempo ni para limpiar mi ropa. Viviendo en Spanish Harlem en un 4o piso, hasta hacer la compra era imposible. I started to wonder, is having a salary job really better than getting paid hourly?
My relationship with Deloitte was similar to my romantic ones. Lo dejé en 2016 y en 2018 we got back together. Duré dos años más trabajando con ellos y al final en 2020 lo dejé otra vez por la misma vaina. Y al fin al cabo sentía un vacío en mi corazón- o como dicen los americanos - it was soul sucking.
I wanted to make a difference for my people. And I thought working in education was the way. Next stop on the career obstacle - getting a job that helps people but pays me enough to live in my city where I was born and raised, mi tierra, New York City.
I quit my job at Deloitte for the second time. It’s the middle of the pandemic. My roommate moves back down south, where he’s from. I can no longer afford my 2BR apartment on 157 and Broadway. I move back to my mom’s, relying on my savings because when you quit, you don’t qualify for unemployment benefits - and let me tell you, I did apply. I was denied. Later that month, I enrolled at Tuoro online school to get my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.
By December, I finished my first semester at Tuoro. 4.0, not too shabby. But I realized that economically, continuing grad school didn’t make sense. So, I was applying to jobs as I studied.
In January, I got an offer! - a part-time Associate position at an influential education company, making about 30k a year. I had to start from the bottom even though I had 7 years of professional work experience. But I was thankful for the opportunity; shout out to Angelica, who opened the door for me!
The 30k was nothing compared to the 100k+ I was making before. La paz mental no tiene precio. I thought I could work my way up. And that’s exactly what I did.
Me fajé a trabajar como hacemos nosotros los mexicanos, los negros y los dominicanos y claro que me promovieron a full time by May de ese año. Y Después de many conversations y lucha o como dicen en inglés “advocating for yourself” me promovieron a manager en Mayo de 2022.
Pero cómo son las cosas de la vida me encontré con otro obstáculo.
Ya a este tiempo I was living on 180 y Ft Washington con mi novio que pagaba la renta. Aunque ya yo era manager todavía él ganaba más que yo. For reasons I won’t get into, tuvimos que terminar. I moved back to my mom’s house in Alphabet City / Lower East Side - the other side of Manhattan.
Back to square one.
En ese tiempo no sabía lo que iba hacer. If you found a one-bedroom apartment in the Heights for under 2,000 dollars, you were lucky. Taba pensando mudarme a mi ancestral land DR.
En este tiempo de inseguridad me agarre de Dios. Le pedí, Señor por favor guíe mis pasos para salir de esta olla. God answered my prayers. Next thing you know, I’m a homeowner in Filadelfia. I move in October 2022.
Yay! Dream come true! Right?
Yes, but … it’s not over yet! Again, the game of life throws another obstacle, another challenge, another test for me to pass.
August 2, 2022
It’s mid-summer, and my company had said earlier in the summer that there would be a round of promotions and raises at the end of the summer. So, I emailed my talent officer to ask about this, and basically, I interpreted the response as gaslighting. I told them straight up in my reply, and I quit my job de un pique. I thought to myself, I don’t accept that kind of treatment from nobody - not my spouse, not my parents, not even my job!
Otra vez estoy en olla, pidiéndole a Dios, Señor ábreme el camino.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
And so it is.
God saved the day again.
By Labor Day, a new enterprise was born - Growth Mindset Style.
Now that I’m an entrepreneur, I understand why they call it “a career.” Career es carrera en español. You see why they call it the rat race? We’re literally running for our lives - every day. It’s a concrete jungle here in New York City. But thanks to our good God, even in the concrete, a rose can grow.
September 5, 2023
I am back in New York to be with mi seres queridos. As I walk down 9th street, I see an empty store lot. I dream of one day bringing my store from online to real life. And I believe it will come true.
Because many of my dreams HAVE come true, I went to my dream college, got my dream job as a management consultant, traveled the world, and own a home. God is good.
But I stay dreaming. I stay believing in God. Through him, I can withstand any obstacle, y tambien tu.
Mi gente, the only way out is together.
Unity is power.
Dori Sol, a rising star born in 90’s Manhattan, is a Spotify artist and creator of Growth Mindset Style, an online clothing store. Ella se considera hija y soldada de nuestro Dios todopoderoso and hopes to use her talent to share Jesus with the world. She is also a devoted daughter and a champion of love.