When One Door Closes, Multiple Doors Open (My Common Application Main Essay)

*This was my common app essay that answered the prompt, “Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.” Given that high school seniors are probably going through the process of writing their college application essay, I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I shared mine on the internet to help inspire high school students.

Numerous times I felt like giving up on my basketball dreams yet I didn’t want to be labeled a quitter. Instead, I wanted to one day tell a story just like Michael Jordan’s and how he was initially cut from the varsity team only to end up becoming the best player in the world; this became the driving force of my basketball obsession after I didn’t make the varsity team during my freshman year.

I spent countless of hours working on my game, pushing aside my friends and what a “high school” life was supposed to be about. Yet as my Junior Year ended, I sat there tired of the whole routine of working my butt off every single day only to have sub-par performances during actual games.

And after another dismal performance, I was ready to call it quits when my dad told me that if I quit, all the hours I spent working on my game would be wasted, and I’d be labeled a quitter, forever– this led to a renewed fire to stick it out in hopes of making the most out of my last year in high school.

I promised to double or even quadruple my effort in the next practices when, lightning struck. In a blink of an eye, everything I had worked for in the past 8 years disappeared as I lay on the court shouting in pain after tearing my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), an injury that would sideline me for the rest of my senior year.

I suddenly remembered all my daily sacrifices of swallowing up those gooey protein shakes, shooting hoops under the scorching heat, doing dribbling drills during lunch breaks, refusing to indulge in junk food, sleeping at 9 pm in hopes of growing taller and turning down my friend’s invites to hang-out just so I could work on my game instead.

I was devastated as I stayed up all night in pain thinking about what I had done with my life, then I suddenly remembered why I even worked so hard in the first place — the story I wanted to tell couldn’t end here.

How could I give up when my senior year essentially hadn’t even started? I now had a blank page to start writing a renewed story.

6 months later, my story continues to unfold. Who would’ve thought that the same injury that felt like the world falling on my knee would catapult me to a much bigger world. I wasn’t afraid to fail anymore, for I already knew how it felt to hit rock bottom so I went ahead to pursue opportunities that I was once too scared to even consider.

I tried out for the debate team, where I was forced to step out of my comfort zone and learn more about global issues. My devastating injury suddenly seemed so trivial compared to the pressing societal problems we debated about. I was now playing a much bigger game than basketball.

More importantly, as I fulfilled my dream of representing my school and country in international tournaments, I got to meet people from all over the world — each one with their own dreams of one day making a more profound impact in the world.

This inspired me to spend more time working on community service projects while continually trying to inspire others to do the same through my blog posts and newspaper articles that document my Senior Year journey — one that saw me change from the health-conscious basketball freak that my friends used to call me to who I am today, an ambitious global citizen constantly looking for novel solutions and stories to share.

Maybe I was never meant to have a story like Michael Jordan’s because ultimately, we all have our own unique story to tell, and I’d like to think that tearing my ACL was just the start of a whole new chapter.

——-

Feel free to let me know what you think about my essay by emailing me at david.ongchoco@gmail.com. Do let me know as well if you need any help with your essay.

Student entrepreneurship is ‘not a science’: Weiss Tech House panel

*This was first posted in my Technical.ly Philly Column 

Group photo of the student panelAs part of the Penn Innovation Week, the Weiss Tech House brought together a student entrepreneurship panel composed of Dan Fine, Aaron Goldstein, Christopher Gray, Roopa Shankar and Alina Wong — the founders of Glass-U, Fever Smart, Scholly and NOMsense Bakery, respectively.

Here are the lessons they hoped to impart.

Continue reading

4 College Students Share Their Big Ideas in TEDxPenn’s “What Lies Ahead” Screening Session

*This was first posted in my column in the Huffington Post

Hosting TEDx talks are a powerful way to share ideas and inspire people to take action. Yet there are an abundance of ideas out there that it’s hard to give everyone the opportunity to share their big idea. At an institution like the University of Pennsylvania, there are countless of students out there constantly working on their ideas, and chasing the dream.

With a desire to highlight these ideas and get students to learn more about the TED ethos, the TEDxPenn team has recently decided to hold “talent search” and screening sessions every month leading up to the actual TEDxPenn event in Spring 2015. In these mini-events, Penn students get the opportunity to share their big idea to the rest of the Penn community in talks that last between 5 to 7 minutes.

‘Ask what if questions’

The first speaker Rajat Bhageria, a freshman at the School of Engineering and founder of ThirdEye, started out by explaining the Google Glass application his team created that helps blind people be able to see again. This application was inspired by Rajat’s teammate Joe, who had a grandfather who was blind. With a desire to help his grandfather live a normal life again, the ThirdEye image recognition application was born.

2014-11-17-RajatBhageria.JPG

He then highlighted how this only just the start, and went on to talk about the importance of asking “what if” questions and exploring the possibilities of technology. Bhageria went on to challenge the crowd to take advantage of all the open platforms we have today. He said, “Google didn’t make this application. We did. Three college freshmen did. We saw things that others didn’t see. We were able to ask the “what if” questions that Google wasn’t able to ask.” Continue reading

Connecting the Dots I’ve Collected in My First 3 Months in College

*This was first posted in my column at the Huffington Post.

It was three months ago when I first step foot on my college campus, but it seems as though so many things have happened already. The amount of things I’ve experienced in such a short period of time is unbelievable. The ability of college to expose you to a variety of fields that cover almost every part of every spectrum is unparalleled.

In these first three months alone, I’ve learned something new every single day. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with people from every continent, and interact with people, one year ago, I could’ve only dreamt of meeting. I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet and learn from multi-talented students, serial entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, venture capitalists, non-profit leaders, award-winning journalists, renowned professors and unique individuals who inspire me to carve my own path.

davido1

At the same time, my definition of college has constantly changed every waking moment I’ve spent here in college. One day, I’m so set that college is supposed to prepare me for the workforce by teaching me practical skills. Then the next day, I read an article talking about college being the place where you should be taking advantage of the opportunity to learn things that genuinely interest you like philosophy, acting, art and other things that most people call “useless.” I then ask myself, “why can’t I just major in life?” Continue reading

Business while Doing Good: Social Entrepreneurship in Washington, D.C.

There has been a recent shift in paradigms when in the corporate and non-profit sectors. What previously has been thought to be in the opposite ends of the spectrum, the corporate and non-profit field has found an intersection in social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship has been given many different definitions but at its core, social entrepreneurship is about creating sustainable enterprises that focus on dealing with a social problem or creating a social good through different models.

Having been exposed to the local scene of social entrepreneurship in the likes of Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm, Rags to Riches, IdeaSpace Foundation, and Kalibrr among others, I was excited to see what social impact ventures and innovations I could find in the US, and possibly introduce similar models to the Philippines. 

DC Trip Global Giving, DC Central Kitchen, GoodSpread

Given my interests in exploring different types of social enterprises, I quickly went ahead and joined the Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement (PennSEM). One month later, and I got the opportunity to not only bond and learn from my fellow PennSEM members but also go on a “social enterprise field trip” in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. There we got to meet the founders and managers of four different social enterprises: DC Central Kitchen, Global Giving, Armani Ya Juu, and GoodSpread.

Bonding session with the PennSEM team

Bonding session with the PennSEM team

Empowering the poor through job training models

Starting out, we were quickly introduced to the very efficient and innovative operations of DC Central Kitchen, which recycles food, feeds the homeless and trains them in the culinary arts. DC Central Kitchen’s job training program for the homeless focuses on self-empowerment, developing a supportive community and professional skills training to help prepare the graduates to work either in a partner restaurant or go full circle by working in DC Central Kitchen.

Continue reading

Featured Image -- 1644

Starting the Social Start-Up

Awesome tips on Starting a social startup by a Penn student.

IMPACT

kids_holding_sb_1

This summer, I was given the opportunity to start a social enterprise called Sweet Bites. Last March, my five-person team of Penn students won a position as finalists in an social entrepreneurship competition called the Hult Prize. The “Prize” is 1 million USD in seed funding for one of the six finalists. With the milli to motivate us, we built up Sweet Bites in 5 months into an operation that takes most founders two years.

Sweet Bites was created to lift the burden of dental heath problems in urban slums worldwide. Our product is simple; many children living in slums already spend their little pocket change on it: Chewing Gum. Sweet Bites is a chewing gum sweetened 100% with Xylitol, a sugar substitute proven to reduce the number of cavities in people develop over time. People in Finland have been using it as a dental health supplement for years, and…

View original post 863 more words

The Wharton Social Impact Initiative: Business for Good is Good for Business

I recently got to interview the Wharton Social Impact Initiative Managing Director Sherryl Kuhlman. Check out her thoughts on Social Impact and Social Entrepreneurship and the different innovative programs WSII offers.

IMPACT

The demand for social impact has increased in the past few years, and being a leader in innovation, the University of Pennsylvania has been in the frontier of these advancements. To learn more about social impact, I interviewed the Managing Director of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII) Sherryl Kuhlman.

View original post 781 more words