Growing up wasn’t easy for me. Between being bullied, exposed to an environment ridden with drugs, and losing friends to street violence, life was just flat out difficult. For some reason, however, I find myself standing before you all today. I found a way to rise up, to persevere. Before I continue, I want to thank my family, friends (who chose a positive path), and Beat the Streets Philadelphia. Specifically, I want to mention Coach Ed from PAL, James Mangan, Ben Reiter, Matt McConnell, Ben Greer, Chris Hanlon, and Max Tannenbaum!
Thank you for helping to “save me from becoming just another statistic.”
I first began wrestling with BTSP 8 years ago, as a member of the Mariana Bracetti Academy wrestling team when Coach Tannenbaum, my teacher at the time, asked me to give the sport a try. Although I wasn’t great at the start, seeing my younger brother Luis stick with it challenged me to do the same.
Early in my high school years, school wasn’t quite ‘my thing’. I did a lot of my homework ‘on the fly’, I didn’t have big goals for myself, and for the most part l saw school as something I had to do in order to pursue a military career. With help from my mentor, Penn wrestler Lorenzo Thomas, all of that changed for me. I learned to balance my time between the mat and the classroom, the importance of goal setting, and the fulfillment that comes with helping others! Pretty quickly, I saw my grades jump from C’s/D’s to A’s/B’s; ‘just okay’ stopped being enough, and I even began to get excited about school!
Before I knew it, my improvements in the classroom began to translate to success on the mat. I continued to take advantage of all of the opportunities BTSP had to offer. I wrestled year round, competed around the country, and made strides quickly! After 4 years of grinding, I finished my career with over 100 wins & became the 1st state qualifier in school history!
I focused my time on simultaneously helping myself & others. While I took classes at Community College of Philadelphia, I continued to give back to BTSP as much as possible. I helped coach wherever I was needed, mentored high school wrestlers, and continued to give back. I refused to be deterred. Eventually, I finished the school year at CCP with a 3.7 GPA; opening the doors for me to attend a 4-year college and wrestle at Bridgewater State University.
Today, I am proud to share that I’ve been successful at Bridgewater State. Not only am I on track to earn Academic All-American status; I’m also doing very well on the mat as I continue to chase my dream of becoming a National Champion!
Looking ahead, I know that I want to dedicate my future toward helping kids like me. I want to show kids who might feel stuck like I did that there is always a way out of the hood; and it’s is not by getting involved in the streets, by skipping class, or thinking negatively. It’s about going to class, studying, thinking positively about the conflict we find ourselves in, and most of all, not being afraid to ask for help when it’s needed. Not enough students had the opportunity I did; and I want to make sure that continues to change. My name is Edwin Morales, and I am a proud student athlete who grew up through the Beat the Streets Philadelphia program.