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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Transitional Year Program inspires students to excel

Published: January 27, 2012
Section: Features

Alyssa Green ’14, the 2010-11 Transitional Year Program (TYP) senator, grew up in a self-described turbulent household. The challenges Green now faces as a college student are incomparable to the various struggles thrown her way since her childhood. As a result, Green has brought a new perspective on daily life to Brandeis.

At first, Green lived with her mother and step-father, moving back and forth between suburbs in Florida and Texas. At the age of 15, however, she moved in with her grandmother.

“My environment wasn’t conducive to my growth and happiness. My step-father was somewhat abusive and that’s basically why I decided to leave,” Green said.

Within a year, however, Green’s grandmother could no longer support her financially. Knowing that it was a choice between food on the table or school, Green made the difficult decision to drop out of high school and begin a full-time job. That same year, Green lost many of her friends when she came out as a lesbian.

Green’s grandmother had always instructed her, “If you don’t have a dream, you don’t have anything.” Although Green had internalized her grandmother’s words, she soon felt her dreams of success and happiness slipping away as she witnessed everyone around her accepting their situation without trying to improve their livelihood.

Green began to change her outlook, however, after visiting her friend, a TYP student at Brandeis. During her stay, people suggested that she apply for TYP.

TYP targets determined students who have exhibited leadership potential and the ability to overcome many of life’s struggles. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, but each student integrates a new vision and set of experiences into the Brandeis community.

Although Green initially viewed the idea of applying to TYP as a joke, she nevertheless chose to apply on a whim. During the application process Green grew more serious about the program as it became a true possibility.

Now in her second year at Brandeis, Green has revived her dreams while simultaneously exhibiting her leadership skills. As the elected TYP senator last year, Green helped plan “Night of Inspiration,” a talent show in which TYP students gather to honor that year’s graduating TYP class.

Green is quick to acknowledge Brandeis’ impact on her life and development of her academic potential. When she graduates, she hopes to attend graduate school, a goal she would never have considered possible before attending Brandeis.

Discussing cultural diversity at Brandeis, Green said that living in a dorm with students from a variety of countries and cultural backgrounds has helped her to step out of her own experiences and relate to other cultures.

“I hope that I’ve also brought in a different perspective to the people that I’ve encountered and made people step outside of their own selves, their own situation, and try to see life from a different point of view. If I’ve done that for at least one person here … then I feel like I’ve made an impact,” Green said.

In fact, Green has several new perspectives to offer the Brandeis community. First, Green has refuted the misconceptions surrounding TYP. According to Green, certain people tend to stereotype the TYP class as a group of poor, under-resourced and unintelligent students who take easier classes. On the contrary, Green explains that TYP is a rigorous program designed for intelligent and driven students who simply need additional support in school.

“A lot of the time with public school systems, kids fall through the cracks and kids are forgotten who possess so much academic potential, and that’s why TYP is important. It gives kids a second chance, [kids] who might not necessarily have gotten one otherwise,” Green said. “… In America the better the college, the higher the cost. But for people, there’s no color of intelligence, there’s no price of intelligence

Green has additional advice to offer Brandeis as the community grows to its full potential. Green described her challenge as a “queer person of color” at Brandeis, a university that goes to great lengths to be accepting of the LGBT community.

Still, it is difficult for others to comprehend the different experiences of a queer female of color like herself.

“People have been very blatant and very angry about my gender presentation and about my sexual identity,” Green said. “I think that people who don’t challenge gender roles and gender norms as much as I do have less oppression because they can assimilate into American society more so than I would be able to.”

On the other hand, Green is impressed by recent initiatives by the Queer Person of Color Coalition at Brandeis. She is additionally surprised by the willingness of heterosexual males at Brandeis to be friends with openly gay males without having their masculinity or reputation threatened.

Green hopes to utilize each of her life experiences to one day run a youth development program for teens and feels that Brandeis has transformed her goal into a real possibility.

“Brandeis has allowed me to see the world though a different perspective,” Green explained.