I remember it was about three days before my first day of High School... I was writing down all the goals I wanted to accomplish in my next four years. There were a lot of mini goals like getting an 80% average in this class, becoming athlete of the year, taking part in the black history month assembly for four years, etc...
But my main goal was to receive a full-ride soccer/academic scholarship to a school in the United States. At the time, I knew two things for certain; I wanted to be a professional soccer player and that in the United States, you were more likely to get noticed from professional environments compared to Canada. I saw America as “the land of opportunity” and so I made a commitment to myself at the very beginning of my process that come hell or high water, I will achieve this goal.
3 years Later…
Grade 11, I had a lot of things going for me; I accomplished just about all my mini goals, had a girlfriend for about a year at the time, was well-respected amongst my peers, and was on the rise to be playing in a Division 1 school in two-years time. The only thing standing in the way of my main goal was the SAT. At around this time, I was speaking with Vermont University about joining their team. Before that, it was Simon Fraser and Michigan State.
I just needed to have a high SAT score for the school to accept me. So I bought the dictionary-sized SAT book to help me learn all the things to know about the SAT months before I took it. In between that time, I went on an official visit to Vermont where they revealed that all I needed to do was get a certain score and I will be a Catamount student-athlete with an academic scholarship and a significant athletic scholarship.
When I heard all of that, I felt nothing but excitement rushing through me and I envisioned myself being a part of this beautiful school. So, I took the SAT for the first of many times and got a test score that came up short of Vermont’s expectations. When it was time for me to take another SAT, Vermont had decided to move on and ended their search for their 2016 Class. I was frustrated at the fact that I didn’t get the score that I needed and even more frustrated at the fact that there was another opportunity missed by low SAT scores. Although, this was another opportunity missed, I told myself to stay focused on the prize. In my mind, I didn’t have the luxury to dwell on my mistakes, all I could really do is find ways in which I could better my SAT score as well as improve my performance on the pitch.
My mother always told me that I should strive for my dreams but to have a back-up plan. So my back-up plan was York University and Carlton University, both Canadian schools I applied to, both of which had accepted me.
One day, I had a very important conversation with my academic advisor. She had informed me that in order to be eligible to go the US, I needed to take required courses like the sciences, math, and English. Now, because I had already taken academic English and a few of the math courses my senior year, all that was left were my sciences and one math class. While speaking with my advisor, she had recommended to me that it would be beneficial for me to go into a grade 10 math course to keep my average up. I must say, a grade 12 student joining a grade 10 classroom was definitely not something I was expecting my last year of high school.
At some point during our conversation, she asked me:
What do you think?
I had to pause and think about it for several seconds. But at the same moment, there was a choice I had to make. Do I continue to pursue going to the States for school with no guarantees of getting a scholarship, or do I settle and go for the schools that are literally waiting for me to click on my acceptance email? I wasn’t necessarily thrilled about the required roadmap, but my response was:
By any means!
I knew that there are some things in my life I had to give up in order for me to achieve this. But at the end of the day, I took my chips, put them in the middle of the poker table, and went all-in, so to speak.
Life of a Tiger…
I knew that in order for me to achieve this, I needed to invest all of my spare time in studying for upcoming quizzes, tests, SAT’s, ACT’s, individual soccer training, etc. Rarely did I spend time with my family or friends those last four months of school. I was so relentless in my pursuit that when I spent time playing video games, I constantly felt like I was loosing time studying. I became obsessed with what I was chasing.
My weekday regime consisted of me waking up at 5:30 am and my mother dropping me off at school at around 6:30 am. I would begin studying for an upcoming SAT or ACT before classes started at 9 am. I'd go through all my morning classes until about 11:30 am (lunch time) and used the following spare hour to do my online courses. Then, I would continue to go through the remainder of classes until 3:10 pm and after study the math portion of the SAT with one of the math teachers until around 5 pm. Later, I'd do my regular homework before my practice at 8 pm which just so happened to be walking distance from my school. I would then get picked up by my mom and start the cycle all over again the next day.
On weekends, it was nonstop studying and soccer. I would spend a few hours with family, but then it was back to the books. It was around this time when I also traveled to Kingston, Ontario (2 hour drive) once every two weeks because there was a tutor that had helped my cousin with the SAT and ACT test who had offered to help me out as well. In my last semester of high school, I took seven courses.
When I did homework at that time, I would stop and look at some of my friends that walked around school without a care in the world, knowing what school they were going to and their only expectation from that point was to graduate. I always thought to myself that it must be nice knowing so early where your future school would be. After I stopped dwelling for five minutes, I got back to work.
The sad truth about this life is that it was very lonely. Not going out with my friends and not going to parties was one of the many costs to my aggressive ambitions. But one thing I knew was that I can’t stop now because the more I worked, the closer I was to my goal. I remember, I was driving back home with my mom one day, and she asked;
Mylezee, (my nickname), why are you doing this knowing that there is a big possibility that you may not be able to go to the States for school and soccer?
Because I would much rather take a risk and see if I have what it takes to achieve this than just give up the possibility all-together. After all the things that I have been through momma, I refuse to believe that my time and energy in this will not pay off.
The more you work, the more confident you feel in your craft. For me, it got to the point where I felt that it was only a matter of time until I was getting my reward.
The Pay Off….
One afternoon during my final semester in High School, when I was in class, my teacher got a call from my Principal asking me to come to her office. As I walked to her office, I did not know what to expect. Different scenarios were rushing through my head up until the point of when I was sitting down in her office. When I walked in and sat down, she told me that the Ottawa Carlton District School Board has a yearly ceremony to recognize student leaders within the district. She mentioned how every school picks an exceptional individual who they feel embodies the attitude and characteristics of a leader and one that has made a significant impact on the school. She then said that of the many people she could think of, she felt that I should be the one to receive this award.
When I first heard this, I didn’t know what to think. I was so focused on what I needed to do to get better and achieve my goals that I never realized that other people were watching. I didn’t know that what I was doing was something that exemplifies what a leader is supposed to be.
So, I gratefully accepted the reward and invited my parents, my coach/high school teacher Dave Barbier and my aunt and uncle. It’s a beautiful feeling when all your hard work and consistency gets recognized. I didn’t want to reflect on it too much though because I still have not achieved what I wanted yet.
The Pay Off pt 2….
Two weeks after the ceremony, I was in a Physical Therapy class and we had just finished making a few smoothies for our Nutrition unit and started putting the dishes away. Suddenly, there was afternoon announcements being said over the speakers coming from the office. It was to announce who the Class of 2016 Valedictorian was going to be.
Now, for the last week or so, people from my school have been posting reasons why they feel they should be Valedictorian for our Class. When they announced who the Valedictorian was going to be, I was cleaning the dishes with a few of my classmates. I was minding my business until I heard:
I would like to announce the Class of 2016 Valedictorian, Congratulations Myles Cornwall.
I was in complete disbelief, my hands started shaking, and waves of emotions just started coursing through me. As I received congratulations from my friends, I called my family letting them know the news. Then, I took some time to myself to embrace all of it and started to cry. Being Valedictorian was never in my realm of possibilities of what I can achieve in High school. It was very humbling to know that I made so much of an impact on my graduating class that I would be the man to represent us at our Graduation ceremony.
At the ceremony, it was an emotional day. I had my coach/teacher, Dave Barbier who I have known since I was 12 years old, introduce me before saying my speech. It was 10 minutes of humbling praise and recognition of who I am, what I did to get here, and all the things I exemplify and accomplished. It was so moving that it even made my family cry. When I was done with my speech about working hard, embracing pain, and the value of family, I received a standing ovation from the audience. It was a very special moment for me and my family and one that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
The Pay Off Pt 3….
It was about two days after my Valedictorian speech when I received a phone call. It was some time early in the morning because I was still half asleep and didn’t bother to check caller ID. When I asked who it was, all I hear is:
Hey Myles, this is Andy Hoggarth from Walsh University. I’ve looked over your ACT scores and made Walsh aware of your acknowledgement for being Valedictorian and Student Leadership. There was a certain GPA that you needed to receive to get in which was a 3.0, you got a 3.1. So, you’re officially eligible to play NCAA soccer.
My heart dropped, my eyes were teary and my mind was racing. I had been on an official visit to Walsh University before and absolutely loved their campus but was not sure if I was eligible to play.
That was the news that I was waiting to hear after four years of consistent work. Andy then told me that he will be getting my Letter of Intent has me go through the process of getting a student visa.
There were a lot of things that I wanted to say, but all I could think of was saying thank you over and over again. As soon as I was done on the phone, I reflected on all the times I didn’t think I would make it here. The times when I was alone in my room thinking... how the hell am I going to get all this work done? The times when I was upset as I didn’t reach a score I wanted to on my SAT.
After taking three SAT’s, three ACT’s, seven courses my final semester of school, I will be attending Walsh University with an athletic/academic scholarship in the fall. When I snapped back to reality, I smiled, went straight to my mom, who was sitting in the living room, and told her the news. She screamed, gave me a big bear hug, and literally called the entire family that day.
I’m now a Junior at Walsh University majoring in Psychology and minoring in Business Management. I’m a Resident Hall Assistant, Student Government Senator, and Black Student Union Senator. I also play on the Men’s Soccer team where I continue to pursue my dream of becoming a professional player. My aggressive ambition to get to that next level is no different than four years ago. Everyday, I wake up with the mission of improving myself on the field and in the classroom.
Those times in High School revealed to me who I was, and that I have the potential to be a leader. In the positions I'm currently in, I look to help motivate and inspire those who feel discouraged, worthless, or lack motivation. And at the same time, I continue my dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
Why the Tiger?…..
As shown, the title of my story is called “Life of a Tiger”. I chose this title because the tiger is one of the most feared predators in the animal kingdom. A tiger is considered to be determined, aggressive, active, and most of the times, lonely. When being compared to the lion, people consider the lion to be king of the jungle. In our society, there are many people who get singled out or overlooked like the tiger and there are few who are top experts in their fields like the lion. So, the job of the tiger is to wake up every day with the mission of claiming that number one spot in anything they do.
This could be for a promotion, a mark in school, a degree, anything. It could even be the visualizations of what they see themselves becoming. The point is, their job is to reach their goals and not stop until they do so. Personally, I have been using this philosophy from High school where I had achieved many accolades to my time in College where I’m currently in the process of doing the same. The beauty behind this philosophy is that very few people can be the lion, but everyone can be the tiger.
I would like to acknowledge my family for always being there for me during the times where I was unsure about my pursuit or the times when I was too busy to spend time with them.
I would like to thank my tutors that have helped me study math, science, and for the SAT/ACT, for their patience and knowledge. I wouldn't be in the position that I am in today.
I would like to thank all my coaches for always believing in me and my abilities, for pushing me to do better, and for putting me in positions where I can succeed in soccer.
Lastly, I would like to thank Walsh University for giving me the opportunity to experience the college life here in America and to continue my dream of becoming a professional soccer player.