Sky Bennett - Bright Like a Diamond
Scotticia “Sky” Bennett isn’t just bright like a diamond, she also responds just as flawlessly under pressure. Sky joined us as the first Avant Garde - College Prep Services Scholar, a program designed to identify high-achieving students who have big goals for their futures, but may lack the knowledgeable support and financial backing required to navigate the college application process. Avant Garde - College Prep Services steps in by offering specialized instructions and consultation to help those students fill the gaps, and create personalized plans for success. Sky had everything in her to achieve any goal she set, and was willing to trust the AGP process to get there. From extra reading assignments, to new volunteer commitments, an SAT Prep Course, College Application Workshop, and private subject tutoring, Sky met every new challenge with an open mind and a fierce amount of grit.
When we spoke to Sky in January of 2020 (you can read that article here), she had already climbed from the top 16% of her class to the top 10%, a ranking that would earn her automatic admission to most Texas public universities. Sky, however, knew she wanted to attend The University of Texas - Austin, which would require a top 6% ranking for automatic acceptance. In fact, statistically speaking, students outside of that top 6% ranking only have a 10% chance of admittance to UT! Already in her second semester of junior year, it would have been easy for Sky to accept the top 10% ranking, and forget her UT dreams. Instead of slowing down, however, she shifted it into high gear. Now, nearing the end of her second semester of senior year, Sky is in the top 4% of her class, has been accepted into her dream college, and has been awarded the Terry Foundation Scholarship (one of 168 students), guaranteeing that she will graduate completely debt-free.
Sky’s message to other high school students can be summed up in a John C. Maxwell quote: “Dreams don’t work unless you do”. She goes on to say that “if you don’t want it MORE than everyone else does, you won’t get it”. It is one thing to want something, but quite another thing to be able to create, and maintain, an actionable plan toward success. When asked how she navigated the process, she asserted that you have to keep going, not get bogged down by the trials, and remember that it will all work out in the end. Sky wants fellow students, and upcoming high schoolers, to know that it is ok to share your dreams with others, that telling people about your plans could open doors for assistance. In fact, she says that talking with a former teacher about her plans is what opened the door to the AGP Scholars Program!
The AGP Scholars Program worked with Sky to develop pathways toward her goals. Through conversations with AGP Founder, Robb Jenson, Sky developed an undergraduate plan to put her on a trajectory toward law school. Originally hoping to major in Criminal Justice or Sociology, Sky attended summer camps in applicable subject areas and volunteered with the local Teen Court. Ultimately, she knew she wanted an undergraduate experience that would allow her to better understand and communicate with those whom she would be serving. That intention brought her to Communication and Leadership as a major area of study. In addition to having access to Robb’s expertise in the application process, and assistance in the search for the right school and major, Sky also benefited from AGP’s SAT Prep Course, private math tutoring, and College Application Workshop. She states that she found the workshop especially helpful, as it gave her a place to start, and, more importantly, gave her permission to share stories that showed honesty, vulnerability, and passion. Sky remembers struggling with what she wanted to say versus what she thought schools wanted to hear. The workshop provided her with the skills to craft and hone her story in truly impactful ways, and allowed her to share pieces of herself that felt true to her voice.
Outside of academics, Sky suggests that each student work to find the extra-curricular activity that is right for them. Over her high school career, Sky found herself involved in FCCLA, Skills USA, the Criminal Justice Club, Key Club, Student Council, and NHS. However, she says that your extra-curricular activities don’t have to be affiliated with your campus to be rewarding or beneficial. Sky also volunteered with the local Teen Court, and enjoyed the relationships and skills she developed in the process. Quality of the experience, she asserts, is more important that the quantity of groups you belong to. When asked about her busy extra-curricular schedule, she said, “I think you have to be willing to try new things to find your fit”.
Being busy was actually part of what Sky believes helped her be so successful. During the academic year, she would work a part-time job, up to 28 hours per week. Summers pushed her work schedule to 32 hours. “You think you want free time, but you don’t”, she states, suggesting that being busy forces you to stay on top of your schedule. More than forcing time-management, working part-time allowed Sky to develop a sense of independence: she is proud of this quality, and finds joy in paying her own fees for clubs, buying her own clothing, and not having to miss out on opportunities because of cost. Sky knows that it is hard being in what she calls the “financial middle” when it comes to college applications, but she wants students to know that money does not equate to success. “The opportunities for assistance are there, you just have to look. If you can’t find them, you just have to create them”, she says. When it all comes down to it, she wants to remind students that “it requires YOUR personal hard work, regardless of how much help you have”.
We are so proud of Sky’s growth over the last couple of years, not only academically, but personally as well. Independent by nature, we know it was hard for her to trust us with her dreams. We are honored to have earned that trust, and proven to her how extraordinarily capable she is! And we aren’t the only ones absolutely floored by her achievements. Joyce Welch, Instructor of the AP Capstone Program at James Earl Rudder High School, had this to say about Sky:
“Sky is an absolute joy. Seeing her grow as a junior in my AP Seminar class was a memory I will forever cherish as a teacher; she's blossomed into an incredibly strong scholar, able to present eloquently and professionally, as well as write effectively. Additionally, she's just a quality human being. I cannot wait to see how she takes UT by the horns and crushes her collegiate goals. A 10/10.”
According to Sky, her road to success started with the intentional decision to work on focus, determination, and understanding her weaknesses. She believes it is important to create strategies to work around your weaknesses, instead of against them. Additionally, she says it is important to challenge yourself by taking advanced courses, even in subjects you struggle with. “If I’m going to struggle, I may as well struggle in courses that will help me grow”, she says, regarding her enrollment in the AP Capstone Program, which required her to take advanced math courses on top of her preferred courses of English and Social Studies.
In addition to the University of Texas - Austin, Sky also received acceptance from Texas A&M University, The University of Houston, Baylor University, Texas Tech University, and Tuskegee University (in Alabama). She is still awaiting a response from Howard University, but is excited to be committed to UT and the Terry Scholarship. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies in Communication & Leadership (with a possible major in Black Studies), Sky hopes to pursue a Juris Doctorate at one of the nation’s top HBCUs. It is her hope to serve others through a career in criminal defense and involvement in non-profit organizations working to overturn wrongful convictions.
If you or your student could benefit from the AGP Scholars Program, please click the link here to apply for our next position! Application window is open NOW! Please have applications completed by May 3, 2021, or contact us today with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org