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Class of '15 grad turns passion for krumping
into Dance Club at Liston Campus
May 13, 2015
Alexander Jimenez is done with regrets.
Maybe it's the creative outlet the Providence student finds in dancing – how time seems to stop, how he removes himself from the outside world and transports to a place where all that concerns him is the joys or sorrows of just one present moment. Maybe it's the success that he's finally found after years of hard work, leaving his sub-par performance of high school behind. Whatever it is, it's working for him.
"What's done is done," said the 23-year-old, who will graduate this month with a degree in Liberal Arts and a 3.23 GPA. "You have to acknowledge the consequences, look at the hand you're dealt, and say, 'This is what I have to work with, and this is what I can do.' Don't worry about what's out of your control; it's out of your control. ... Learn from your mistakes, get up and keep going."
When he started taking classes at the Community College of Rhode Island in 2011, what he had to work with was not much. Growing up in Providence in the city's Broad Street neighborhood, one of seven children, Jimenez said that there wasn't much of an emphasis put on education in his household. His parents, who came to the States from the Dominican Republic, had not completed middle school.
Jimenez is grateful for all of the opportunities and support they provided him, but still, he realizes that their lack of exposure to education may have made it easier for him to be "a bit of a knucklehead," in his words.
"I wasn't hanging out with the best people," he said. "Sometimes I'd miss school just because I didn't want to go, and there wouldn't be a fight about it. I'd take time off to work, and there was never a discussion about finishing school or getting bad grades."
Between lackluster attendance and performance, coupled with hours spent working at age 14 in a jewelry factory instead of studying, Jimenez's grades weren't good enough to gain him entry into Rhode Island College. He took a year off to continue working, first as a shoe shiner at Nordstrom's, and then as a retail associate – a job he still holds.
It seemed easy to stress and get mired in the past, wondering what could have been. One day, he wanted to stop wondering. "I wanted to invest in my mind," he said. "I wanted to be the first in my family to graduate from college, and to set a standard for my future family. When I have a family of my own, I want to be able to say I accomplished this."
As one might expect, the transition was a little rocky for the first-generation college student. But when Jimenez was in danger of losing his financial aid because of poor grades and he was granted one final chance, he took it and ran, never looking back.
College success courses helped him with goals and motivation. Outside of school, his pastor at Against All Hope Ministry, Noel Hernandez, provided invaluable guidance, spiritual and otherwise. Back at school, faculty members such as Professor Ellen Mroz inspired him. He turned his passion for dance – specifically krumping, an expressive style of dance for which he's won local and regional awards – into the Dance Club at the Liston Campus, with Mroz as his first dance teacher and later the club's adviser.
"Dance takes your mind to a completely different place," he explained. "You're physically in this world, but your mind is expressing itself – talking about things that week that were tough, or even if you are rejoicing over something. You come out a better person after you're done dancing. A weight comes off your shoulders."
As time went on, Jimenez, who at one point had been so laissez-faire about his future, was taking the reins. He was shedding that old self, the one who skipped class and didn't try. It was as if, just as when he dances, he was able to pause the past, instead taking total control over the present.
Now, Jimenez is looking to the future. He will attend Bryant University to study business and Chinese – his third language, which he began to learn at CCRI – and he's already earned a substantial merit-based scholarship to start him off.
He said that he has his sights set on being his own boss, on putting his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to work to somehow better the world, citing TOMS, the for-profit that donates shoes to those in need on a one-to-one ratio with its own sales.
"Business will give me the most freedom," he said. "It's not about how much money I can make. It's about creating something positive, and changing the world somehow, even if it's just a little."
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