Photo via Forest City
Rieanna Duncan, a senior at High School for Public Service: Heroes of Tomorrow on Wingate campus, is a semi-finalist for the New York Times College Scholarship Program. The program was designed “as a way to support high achieving yet financially underprivileged high school students” from the NYC community who plan to attend a four-year college.
Duncan has been wrestling for almost three years now, having started in her sophomore year. “One thing I like about wrestling is how unpredictable it is,” Duncan said. “No matter what, you never face the same person twice. Even if you've gone head to head with a person 10 times, each time that person is different. Whether they're stronger mentally or physically or having a bad day, that person always has a different mindset so the matches you have with that person can go either way.”
Some of Duncan’s favorite memories involve simply bonding and having a good time with her teammates. “For some weird reason, we can't help but stay in the wrestling room for thirty minutes to an hour just hanging out and acting silly.” Even after they were worn out from practice, Duncan would wrestle with her friends, such as an old teammate named Yvayela, and enjoy it all the while.
One way Duncan says wrestling has changed her is that it’s shown her that she must confront problems head-on.
“I suffer from social anxiety, so being on the team forces me to meet and interact with new people, whether it's being on the mat with them for six minutes or hanging out at a restaurant after a tournament.”
Wrestling is also a good reminder to persevere and be ready for whatever life tosses your way.
“You never know what's going to happen on the mat so you must take advantage of the opportunities that are given to you. If you get taken down you must stand up. As my coach says, ‘Your will to win has to be greater than your fear to lose.’”
For students who are interested in picking up the sport, Duncan’s advice is simple: “don’t quit.” It may be an old saying, but “the more you practice, the better you get.” All of the time, effort, exhaustion and occasional soreness is worth it after winning a medal, she says. “Even if after the first practice you feel it's not for you, put in a week's worth of practice and see how you feel after.”
After high school, Duncan wants to go into entertainment. “I want to be an actor, director, or filmmaker. Pretty much anything regarding theater or the arts.” But if those do not work out, she has some pretty solid backup plans: “I'm cool with being a mattress tester or food critic.”
Duncan says that her AP English teacher, Mr. Zanitsch, recommended her for the New York Times scholarship and encouraged her to apply. Being considered at this advanced stage of the nomination process is a mark of her high achievement among NYC youth, and a sure sign that she has the talent and grit necessary to make her own success in the future.