First in Family

Allen Harrison

Ashlyn Razzo '11

Bronx, N.Y.

Ashlyn Razzo '11
Ashlyn Razzo '11

One of our family albums contains a series of pictures that capture my early school years perfectly. In that album, there are four straight pages, back to front, showing me sitting at the breakfast table, scribbling away furiously. In one picture, however, probably around the mid-nineties based on the extravagant colors I had chosen to wear to school that day, I am looking up at the camera, absolutely and completely dumbfounded. I must have completed every homework assignment from kindergarten through elementary school on that table – research projects on cockatoos, dioramas about the surface of Mars – that table saw it all. And so did my grandfather.

My grandfather constantly reiterated the importance of getting a college education, practically drafting my dorm room layout by the time I was seven. Ten years later, I sat at a rickety desk in our school's college office, scanning pamphlet upon pamphlet of potential colleges. I still remember thumbing through Hamilton's, half-glancing at the word, “rural,” marveling at the open curriculum, admiring the low student-teacher ratio, class sizes, and student body. My college counselor nearly gave me a heart attack as she almost screeched in excitement, thrilled to see I was considering the school she loved to send our Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics graduates to. She half-checked the Early Decision II box herself before I took it to the post office, added every precaution the USPS allowed, and shakily handed it to the attendant. A few weeks later, when I stormed into the college office that chilly Spring morning with my acceptance in hand, half in tears/half delirious with happiness, my college counselor gave a blood-curdling shriek and nearly crushed my spleen with the tightest hug I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

My spleen recovered, and later that year I was walking down Martin's Way, happily trotting to Theatre 101, following a recommendation from my Adirondack Adventure leader that it was, “one of the best classes he'd ever taken at Hamilton.” Up until Hamilton, I had never done theatre before (some may count my break-out role as Elvis Presley in my third-grade musical, but I beg to differ). And yet, here I am, three years later, about to start my senior thesis in theatre (and continue my thesis in biology). Hamilton opened up a world of opportunities for me. It became more than a school. It became a home. And just like any home, every single person at Hamilton College plays a significant role. There are theatre majors playing football, psychology majors in the orchestra, economics majors in The Buffers; Hamilton is the definition of a functioning, loving community.

For me, I was lucky to have the help of Phyllis Breland '80, Kyle Graham '06, Brenda Davis, Amy James, Leslie Bell, and countless others, who opened my eyes to all the resources Hamilton offers its student body. As a result, I am proud to be a part of the 5th best Trivia Team at Hamilton's Trivia Night, a tour guide, a multicultural ambassador, a production assistant for the Theatre department, a volunteer with HAVOC, an assistant athletic trainer, a member of the Executive Board for Untitled@Large, and a part of over 28 theatrical productions. Through these various activities, I have been able to meet an abundance of incredible people.

On tours, one of the most popular questions I am asked is how I deal with the “lack of diversity” on campus. The first time I got this question I was taken aback. Not because I didn't know how to answer it, but because I didn't think we had a “lack of diversity.” I was born and raised in New York City and learned at a young age, that diversity is not just based on the color of your skin. At Hamilton, we have people from all over the nation, all over the globe, with individual tastes in music, movies, and preferences in American Idol contestants. Each one of these people has left a lasting impression on my life, and I am proud to say that I chose to be a first-generation college student at such a prestigious institution as Hamilton College.