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I stepped over broken bottles and plugged my nose from the air that reeked of urine as I walked towards the New York Gauchos gym. Nervously, I stuck remarkably close to my dad, and then midway down the block I saw the address 478 Gerard Ave. I was through an anonymous door and into one of the most beautiful gyms I had ever seen. The morning sun reflected off the golden glowing hardwood floor, still bearing the identification of its previous home, the iconic Madison Square Garden. The smell of urine vanished and I was at home in another gym, this one a veritable holy place of basketball, the names of NYC basketball legends hanging reverentially from the walls. For a high school basketball player, this was the Sistine Chapel, mere feet from a rough-and-tumble New York street.

When I was a kid, I thought that opportunity was something given to me. I didn’t understand that it is hidden everywhere. Now I have found that opportunity is where motivation and courage intersect.

Courage takes many forms. For me, the first step of courage was deciding to look outside of my own small space: my tiny town of 8,000 people. I was practically dragged out of the house to come on my NMH visit. The car ride down consisted of me complaining about how the school was too big and I didn’t know anyone there. As it turned out, and this is a theme that has been consistent throughout my whole life: once I got over my fear and decided to try something, it was way better than I could have imagined.

I had overcome my initial trepidation; now the real challenges started. But the groundwork had been set. My first semester here, I was planning on taking basic-level classes, because that’s what I had been doing and what I was comfortable with at my old school.

When I told Coach Grace about my classes, she said, no, you’re taking honors. It wasn’t up for debate, apparently. She knew, even if I didn’t, what I was capable of and what I should expect of myself. I never realized that a community could envelop you and encourage you the way the community at NMH has for me. The opportunity of growing and learning next to some of the brightest, hardest-working, and most down-to-earth students has inspired me to grow into someone bigger and better than I thought I could. Here, I found a community who saw me as something I never saw myself — a leader, a writer, a math student, an achiever outside of the gym.

I’d played club basketball with the same girls in New Hampshire since I was in seventh grade. I considered them some of my best friends; we were comfortable playing together and hanging out. It was great. But once I got to NMH, my world was suddenly bigger: what had seemed like a great situation now seemed less so. The environment at these practices was a slightly different version of my old high school; nobody went all out, nobody was willing to push themselves outside of their comfort zone. After coming to NMH, I had new goals, and my new goals did not line up with my old club’s. So I had to make another change, to seek another opportunity.

Choosing to play for a new club three hours from home with girls I’d never met wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but with the support of Coach Grace and my future NMH teammate, Grace Heeps, I took the plunge. I went to my first practice and everything was a level above what I was used to, similar to when I came to NMH. I really struggled, I could barely finish the first practice. That’s when I knew I was in the right place.

Opportunities are hidden everywhere. I came to NMH because I wanted more, and boy did I get it — more time sweating my butt off in Forslund (shoutout to the heating system), more great practices with great teammates and coaches, more time stressing over classes that I’d never dreamed of taking.

And it all started with taking a chance. If I’d never driven through the stone gates on Lamplighter Way, I never would have walked onto the glowing hardwood in the Bronx. One step of courage creates opportunities you can’t even imagine in the moment.

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