Unexpected Opportunities

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Zacharias Lee, 2019 graduate of Central Jersey College Prep Charter School

This blog post is part of our celebration of charter school graduates across the country and their achievements. Join us in celebrating our #CharterGrads!

When my family returned to our hometown of Somerset, N.J., in the summer of 2013, I was under the impression I would be attending the district middle school. I was excited to be gifted a new opportunity to “rebrand” Zacharias Lee, while also meeting a myriad of new people. However, on my very first day of school, I found myself in a school uniform. I was lucky enough to be a late addition to the 7th grade class at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School (CJCP). Initially, I was despondent at the idea of attending a charter school instead of the district school but, this unexpected pivot transformed both my mind and character.

As I look back on my matriculation through CJCP, I have numerous fond memories of my time here. One of my most memorable experiences was getting trapped in a McDonald’s restaurant. Our class took a trip to New York City to watch Aladdin on Broadway. Unbeknownst to us, there were protests happening that day and unfortunately, our bus was caught in traffic and could not return to pick us up. We ended up spending the next four hours in the local McDonald’s as we waited for passage home. After our funds ran dry, we spent time talking to each other within the refuge of McDonald’s. The trip ended up being more enjoyable than the actual play! In fact, students still talk about our McDonald’s field trip to this day.

CJCP has helped mold me into the young man that I am today. Through my CJCP experience, I have learned several invaluable life lessons. Chief among these lessons is that hard work does, in fact, pay off. Often it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and this can be discouraging. I found myself susceptible to this. I used to feel as if my goals were too far away to see the immediate effects of my work. However, I managed to persevere and I was able to reap the fruits of my labor. Because of my hard work, I am happy to proclaim I will be attending Rutgers Business School in New Brunswick, N.J., to pursue a degree in finance. After I earn this degree, I intend to pursue my MBA, with aspirations of becoming a CEO of my own business. I also plan to be a champion for justice and equity in the world by establishing a full-tuition scholarship fund for students entering college.

Though I have fond memories of my school, I am still ecstatic to graduate. I am ready and prepared to move on to the next stage of my life and begin chasing my dreams at a higher level. As I leave the school, I hope to have left a legacy that proves through hard work, high self-efficacy, and perseverance, everything is achievable. I implore younger students to remember everyone is on their own path. Students compare themselves to their peers frequently, which is often unhealthy. This constant comparison harbors jealousy and bitterness. If students compare themselves to their former selves however, they will truly be able to quantify the distance from their goals. This change in perspective will lead to a higher likelihood of living happier and more fulfilled lives. 


Zacharias Lee is a 2019 graduate of Central Jersey College Prep Charter School. In the fall he will begin classes at the Rutgers Business School.


[Click to Tweet] Class of 2019 graduate Zacharias Lee reflects on his favorite memories at @CJCPCS as he prepares to head to @RutgersBSchool in the fall! #CharterGrads

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