By Chelsea Jennings
As a kid, I was always told to dream big and that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to.
In high school, I held myself to a high standard on and off the court. I never wanted to be considered a dumb athlete. That is what ultimately pushed me throughout high school, where I would graduate cum laude in my 2012 class at North Crowley High School, Fort Worth, Texas. Coming to Texas A&M, I knew I wanted to take full advantage of all the opportunities of being a student-athlete. I challenged myself to pursue one of the hardest degrees at Texas A&M. I chose Architecture because I have a passion for drawing and design. I remember going into an academic meeting with people questioning my decision and my ability to balance my architectural degree and basketball. My freshmen year I was enrolled into independent studies, which is an undeclared degree plan. I had to prove to the Architecture Department that I could maintain a standard GPA of 3.2 as a student-athlete. The department was hesitant about letting a student-athlete into their program because they knew how demanding this degree could be. As a freshman student-athlete, this was a bit of a challenge but I accomplished it. This undertaking set me back an entire year, but I was determined to show everyone that I could do it.
When I was finally enrolled in Architecture my sophomore season, it was a rude awakening for me. Attempting to balance basketball, architecture, and my personal life almost seemed impossible at the time. During preseason I would literally stay up until 4 in the morning, working on projects and then have to wake up at 5:30am for 6am workouts. I was not getting much sleep and was completely exhausted. This lead to poor performances and not being able to produce how I wanted on the court. I became very overwhelmed and stressed out. At this point in my life, I had never faced anything of this level of difficulty. I began to doubt my decision; I was struggling on the court and off the court. I wasn’t producing on the court and it lingered into my academic success as well. Many times after games where I played not a single second, I would go home and cry wondering why I choose this route. Coming out of high school, I was ranked among the top 50 in the country and highly recruited yet now I was not playing. I truly felt like it was impossible to be the best basketball player I wanted to be while trying to be the best student I could be. I felt like a complete failure and I didn’t know what to do about it. It seemed the best decision might be to transfer and get a fresh start at a new college. I have never been a quitter but it seemed like that was the most logical situation for me at the time. As a Christian believer, I prayed about my situation and I knew he would deliver an answer. It wasn’t till right before my junior season started that I decided I wanted to continue my career here at Texas A&M. I knew I had to finish what I started.
Going into to my junior year I felt like a new person. I was confident and I was stronger. It was amazing seeing how that confidence carried over to the court and into the classroom. It seemed like everything started turning around for the better. I was producing more on the court and I was enjoying my academic successes. Of course, I had my struggles throughout the course of the year but I was more equipped to handle these situations. I started to believe in myself again with the help of God, family, teammates, and coaches. I truly and honestly would not have been successful, were it not for them. My junior year was the turning point of my career here at Texas A&M.
My senior season all the pieces started coming together for me. I realized I had been making excuses my past three years here. I was so worried about all the wrong things. I was so eager to prove that I was better than the person next to me. I lost focus on what I was originally trying to accomplish. I learned that I needed to compete with myself, by challenging myself to get better each day — in school, basketball, or most importantly, getting more in tune with God. My ultimate goal was not just to be the best basketball player I could be but to be the best person I could be. I began to set goals for myself to reach, instead of complaining about my past failures. I attacked my senior year with a Godly purpose. My senior season resulted in me getting 6th women of the year in the SEC. I will be graduating in December — the first female African American athlete to graduate with a degree in the college of Architecture at Texas A&M University. I have also started a brand called LWP. Which means Live With Purpose. This brand is a true testimony of my college career here at Texas A&M. I was defeated before I even got started because I did not understand my purpose due to continuous failures. Living a life with no purpose is like being in a maze with no end. The moment I started living life with a purpose was when my life and career began to change.
I realized through my journey here at Texas A&M that direction is far more important than speed. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. At the time I didn’t realize why I went through all of these obstacles, but now I believe it was meant to be a testimony to others. To show if you are patient, stay the course, and have faith, you can accomplish anything and everything that people thought you could never do. This new mindset has shaped and helped me become the person I am today.