Syracuse University '15
"Just the fact that I get the Say Yes scholarship motivates me to give back and do good."
Bowling has shaped much of Robert’s life: it impacted his decision to go from Bishop Grimes to Henninger; motivated him to go to Cayuga Community College to compete; and ultimately helped him choose to go to Syracuse University. “Bowling was always what I wanted to do with my life. But after graduating from CCC with a degree in criminal justice, I began to think that maybe I would have to start making more life choices, rather than what I want to do as a hobby.”
It was when he was applying for schools post community college that Robert had to make a decision about bowling. He was receiving scholarships from a number of different universities that would cover most of the costs, but his acceptance to SU meant that, as a Say Yes Scholar, he could attend for free. The choice was a stark one, and looking back on it, he thinks he made the right one: “Had I gone to another school, I would have had to focus more on extracurriculars because that would have been what had gotten me into school. Here at SU I can focus on my studies and have a greater ability to give back more to Syracuse. "
While Robert always knew he would be going to college, he was never entirely sure what he would be going for. Since graduating high school in 2011 he has studied criminal justice, economics and now policy studies. It was the decision to pursue policy studies that allowed Robert the opportunity to find what field would interest him the most. “I knew that if I did policy studies I could do a topical specialization in non-profits and I am very interested in non-profits. That’s kind of the world I want to get into.”
In fact, the drive in Robert to do good has been more important than bowling all along. With his foundation in Catholic School, and the role Say Yes has played in his life and those around him, no one is surprised about the choices Robert is making for his future. "Say Yes means a lot to me. I wouldn't be in the position I am now without them. I would love to be working for Say Yes one day. That definitely is what my focus has been on because Say Yes has so much potential to change the lives of people in Syracuse and other areas like Syracuse. It is especially impactful for the kids that come from underprivileged families. Say Yes has a chance to make a difference. "
The day of his interview, Robert had the opportunity to interact with elementary students on a visit to Syracuse University. He was able to see the importance of starting supports at a young age and just how much happiness it brings him to be able to make an impact on someone else’s life. "I actually talked to 90 elementary kids today that were on a Say Yes visit to SU and they were all talking about what they wanted to do when they were older. I told them that there is nothing stopping them from being able to do it. "You have the opportunity to do whatever it is you want to do because it’s not going to cost you anything." Say Yes is giving them that opportunity and giving them the motivation to do well in school.
"The kids asked me how much it cost to go to SU. I told them “when I get my bill at the end of the semester, at the bottom of it, it says total balance: zero.” That is just such a great feeling and opportunity."
Robert’s experiences in Syracuse have instilled in him a desire to denounce the negative perception some people have of his home. "I would like a better picture of it to come to mind, not only to my mind but also to others as well. I’m from the North Side, I grew up there, it’s not that bad. You do what you got to do and no one will really get in your way. People usually get the wrong perception of things; when they think of the city they seem to think of violence. That's just a bad perception. I would definitely love living in Syracuse the rest of my life and that is my plan.
"There are definitely positive aspects of the city going on right now. Destiny USA is expanding, creating more opportunities for jobs and bringing in more investors that might be able to build up the city's reputation. Everything that is going on here at SU is helping out the city. I am tutoring over at the Institute of Technology, and worked with kids over at Wilson Park. It is good to inspire kids at a younger age so we can stop that bad perception from taking root. I think Syracuse is a great place, I really do."
As Robert looks at his life over the next few years, he wants to have graduated from SU and to have started work with a non-profit, hopefully Say Yes. This summer he will be bowling on a regional PBA tour on a sponsorship and interning at the State Office building downtown. When he is not bowling, you can find him on one of the great golf courses in the Syracuse area.
When someone in Hollywood is inspired to re-tell his story in the form of a movie, Robert has already decided that Leonardo DiCaprio will portray him: “I know he has done some pretty messed up characters in his movies, but he very passionate and that’s what I am. I have become very passionate about school because of the opportunity I have been given, I know I have to take advantage of it. The same thing goes for bowling; it’s been an important part of my life and I have always competed on a very high level. I think DiCaprio’s passion could really show others my passion as well.”
Student Spotlight by Jason Ashley
Intern, Say Yes to Education | Syracuse
Would you like to support more Say Yes Scholars like those featured in the Believer's Blog? Say Yes to Education Syracuse has partnered with Centscere, a unique start-up founded here in Syracuse, to securely link your philanthropy to your social media activity. Visit www.centscere.com and select Say Yes Syracuse Scholarship from the list of charities. All gifts matter and every cent is matched by SRC, Inc.