Danilo Vicioso is a 21-year-old entrepreneur from White Plains recently profiled in Daily Voice. Born in the Dominican Republic, Vicioso moved to Westchester with his family when he was in the fifth grade. He is now a student at the University of Delaware. He has also lived in Spain, Los Angeles and New York City.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- I remember my first years as a student in the United States after arriving back from four years abroad in the Dominican Republic. The grades I achieved upon my return were good, not great, but enough to allow me to enroll in the honor course.
I remember sitting across a table from a student whom we’ll call Jose. Jose, a son of Mexican immigrants, was a star soccer player and equally as academically talented. He’d always do better than me in math, my strongest subject at the time --- no matter how hard I tried.
Fast forward to 2017. On a recent trip home I ran into Jose at the gym. He’s been working at a deli. He received his GED but never left White Plains. Now at 22 years old, I struggled to think what future Jose had in front of him. When we were both younger, he was ahead of me. What happened? Was I just smarter than him? The answer is absolutely not. I am no brighter than Jose; I had dramatically different opportunities as well as making different decisions. The decisions at first glance appear to start with minimal partying on weekends and a focus on hard work for my AP Courses. Jose, on the other hand, resorted to partying and becoming the ‘cool kid.’ The results were life changing.
The problem with all of this is that I truly don’t believe there it was my individual decisions that made the difference. I am lucky enough to grow up with a mother that holds a certain standard of living and success and would do just about anything to see her kids move forward. Compare this to Jose, the son of immigrants who arrived to America with no idea what measures were necessary to help him achieve in this society.
The environment in an immigrant home, and I’ve seen this first hand, creates a very challenging opportunity for success. “Work hard,” parents tell their children. “Do your homework.” But as a child, I was given tangibles that had to be accomplished and thus a bottom line was set. Report cards were presented; my mom asked the right questions at parent-teacher meetings and the idea behind applying to a college was instilled into my head before I understood what was happening. I was given the recipe to get to college and become successful.
The book, "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, does a much better job of illustrating the point that I’m trying to get across. It isn’t that I am smarter or more gifted. It is the environment that was created around me which put me in a position to be able to not only succeed, but to take the first steps in creating my own opportunities, specifically structured for success.
White Plains and specifically White Plains High School has done a tremendous job in educating students who are the first generation in their families to go to college. There are classes, research and a support system dedicated to helping these students. It’s through efforts like this that many young people make the right decisions and are able to elevate themselves to a complete education and stronger economic position for their futures. But it isn’t enough. It starts way before White Plains High School. It starts with parents like mine and many of my friends, cultivating the correct environment. Teaching the gardener how to plant, flowers will continue to flourish.