“One thing I like about myself is that I’m not easily distracted,” Michael Balbuena stated in a recent interview.
His friends agree. “Michael has always been pretty mature, but of course high school has made him a better student and person,” said Carla Ponce, his friend since Kindergarten.
Distancing himself from the rest of the students at East Bronx Academy and focusing more on his education, 17 year old Balbuena pushes his way through high school with much hope and courage, with his family as the driving force behind his determination for success. Keeping an eye on the future, Balbuena says he stays focused and blots out all the distractions that present themselves.
Balbuena, a Bronx resident, opens up about his high school experience, including the obstacles he had to overcome in becoming the person he is today. He shares his sources of inspiration, influences and lifelong goals. Recently he realized that not everyone entering high school is there to excel, and noticed that some “didn’t take anything serious”.
Balbuena does not sit round to wait for the next assignment to be issued, but he makes use of his time by allowing his voice to be heard through his school’s newspaper. He covers a wide variety of topics from international news to events that happened there, at the East Bronx Academy. Writing is something that Balbuena is passionate about, and he sees himself majoring in journalism or “some type of writing” in the future.
Ponce supports Balbuena in his decision to become a writer. “I do see him becoming a writer in the future,” she mentioned in an email. “He likes to write a lot and he could write about anything and make something good out of it.”
Balbuena described himself as someone who “mostly played by the rules”. He made sure that he was never a part of a gang as he kept on remembering his favorite teacher’s voice encouraging him to be the best that he can be. He has been in a few fights before, but he made sure he smoothed things out with the opponents in order to prevent any further “tensions”. When asked for the reason behind any one of these fights, Balbuena laughed and reported that it was “probably name calling or something like that”.
One of his greatest inspirations is grandmother ,who raised all of her children nearly on her own. Balbuena admires her strength and the deep love she has for her children. His mother also uses a quote that helps him along the way: “Live your life the way you want to live your life.”
Not only is Balbuena inspired by others, but he also inspires his cousins. He assists them with their school work and ensures that they do it. Balbuena does not know this but he also influences his friend, Ponce. “Michael is creative, smart and reliable,” she explained. “Michael is someone who always does his work, so he influences me to do the same.”
Managing to divide his time equally and not just focusing all his energy on school, Babuena spends his free time reading mostly fiction and watching movies, preferably older movies in black and white. The “Twilight Zone” is one of them. His favorite TV shows are comedies such as “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “George Lopez.”
Balbuena reported to love traveling to new places whenever the opportunity presented itself. Coming from a mixed background whenever visiting places such as Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic he has no trouble communicating with the locals due to him speaking fluent Spanish.
Listening to alternative, contemporary and new pop music is another thing he enjoys doing in his free time. Kimbra and Florence and The Machine are a few artists to which he bobs his head.
He also spends hours playing video games on his X Box – up to a whole day when he has nothing else to do. Balbuena shared that Hide and Seek and Tag were two of the games he enjoyed playing as a child. One of his techniques in Hide and seek was to “go to the spot that’s obvious but no one would look at it,” he chuckled, then added, “behind the door”.
Taking on challenges at an early age, Balbuena registered for an AP History class. Even though “I wasn’t ready for the class I don’t regret it. It has helped me with the ones I’m taking now,” he said. His only regret is not asking for help from a math teacher, as math is one of his weakest subjects.
Looking back on his life, Balbuena thinks that his greatest accomplishment was “staying on track educational wise.” He describes himself as a hard worker. “One of the reasons I work so hard is to show everyone else that I can do it,” he stated. He believes that he has inherited not just his brown eyes from his parents but also their determination.
Looking forward Balbuena sees himself finishing college, starting a writing column and even settling down when he is in his mid- to late thirties. “I think about the future a lot,” he said, but he hurriedly clarified that it was not about the immediate future.
“My greatest fear,” Balbuena said, “is going through college and not being able to do something with what I’ve learned”. That, and spiders, he adds.