• Breanna Aponte

Why I Dropped Out of College

I was 19 years old, attending Cleveland State University as an Early Childhood Education Major. I remember having so many moments in class where I just thought to myself….where will you be in 10 years? I never really knew the answer I just knew for certain I didn’t see myself being a school teacher.

You’re probably wondering why I chose an education major… ever since I was younger I was the school pet. I would help grade papers, clean the room, be in charge when the teacher left, I did it all. I’ve always loved school and as I go older, I loved younger children. I did a lot of volunteering, coaching a mini-me cheer team, babysat a lot. I just loved kids.

The other things I enjoyed and had skill or potential in was fashion design and interior decorating. But I felt like if I wanted to, I could do both of those things without a formal education or degree, so I took the route of education.

Now, looking back at it, I wish I never would of went to college. Instead, I wish I would of taken a year to just work, save and get to know who I was and the type of life I wanted to have before putting myself in debt for something that I wasn’t even sure about.

So before I talk about why I dropped out, let’s talk about why I decided to go.

I remember my whole senior year, how excited I was for college. It was so much fun to visit schools and picture myself being there. I honestly watched too many movies and was picturing some love and basketball type of love story where I would be the cheerleader who falls in love and marries the college athlete haha. I honestly don’t know why college excited me so much. I guess it was my first real step towards being an adult but I later found out it’s way overrated.

I worked really hard my whole high school career to be able to get scholarships and get into a good college. I think a big reason why I wanted to go so bad was that I was the first person in my family to go. My mom always wanted me to be the best and she made college a priority at a young age. She wanted to make sure that I would be in a position to take care of myself and one day, a family.

On top of all of this, all my friends were going to college. It never even crossed my mind NOT to go to college, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

So my senior year, I worked really hard and was able to get multiple scholarships. Feeling super grateful, this was another thing that reassured me that I was doing the right thing.

My first 2 years of college seem like such a blur. I never really fit in with anything or anyone, I didn’t participate in a lot of school festivities and I lived off-campus which made getting the “college experience” a little hard.

By the time I transferred to Cleveland State I was dancing for the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA dance team and unfortunately, I didn’t really fit in there either. I felt like the problem child because I was always getting in trouble, being told to lose more weight, and was having a hard time juggling all my jobs, the dance team and school.

I had no idea where my life was going or where I’d up by I knew for sure that I wasn’t on the right path and something needed to change. I didn’t mind school, I was always a good student, practically had straight A’s my whole life so I knew that school its self wasn’t the problem.

I just knew that when I pictured my life in the future, I was never a teacher in a classroom. The feelings I was experiencing were really weird and honestly, pretty scary. I had no intentions of dropping out of school when I did, the plan was to get the degree and then figure things out from there.

But I had multiple moments of clarity that started to contradict the plan that I had. I kept having these visions almost of me being a successful entrepreneur and impacting the world in a whole different way than I ever imagined.

I started doing research about starting a business and was looking to the stories of other women who owned successful businesses and I was inspired. I started to believe in other possibilities and it was almost as if everything was finally aligning and starting to make sense.

I remember learning about how in order to have a successful business, you have to solve a problem. Sounds simple right? So I thought what problem can I solve and how can I solve it!?

Keep in mind, at this time I was struggling with balancing all the things I had committed to which was school, the daycare I worked at, bartending, waitressing, dancing for the NBA and coaching. I was also struggling with my self-confidence because I was constantly being compared to my teammates who were practically skin and bones.

So I was lacking self-confidence, balance and peace. That’s when it hit me! If I’m struggling with these things I know there are other women who are struggling too! So what if I could help solve that problem!?

I knew I had to start small and do something that I was already an expert at. I was really good at public speaking, hosting, teaching, and dancing. So I combined all 4 of those things and created my Shameless Heel 101 class. This was going to be the first thing that I did to begin solving 1 of the problems, which was, lack of self-confidence.

I created a class for women all shapes, sizes, and dance levels to use movement as way of building confidence. This class wasn’t just a dance class, it was an experience and opportunity to meet like-minded women in a shame-free space and feel good about the woman you see in the mirror. I was very intentional with my branding and really focused on targeted everyday women, not just dancers.

I started teaching the class 1x a month for free and then that turned into 1x a week. Once I saw that there was a demand for it, I started to charge $10 a person, then $20 and eventually $30. I was teaching 3x a week in 3 different locations and I was so amazed at how quickly it was growing. I was able to quit 1 of my jobs and focus more on how I could grow the classes or business.

Then I came up with the idea of doing private parties for bachelorette’s, birthdays or just a girl’s night out. This was where I made the real money at. But the issue was, my classes were getting too big for the spaces I was in and a lot fo the spaces didn’t have the type of availability I needed.

Now as all of this is happening, I’m still in school but I was starting to fall behind in my classes because of all the focus and attention I was putting into Shameless. I was also getting to a breaking point with the NBA because they were a direct contradiction to what Shameless stands for. How can I help women accept themselves and love their bodies’ flaws and all while I’m a part of an organization that only promotes 1 type of woman as acceptable and beautiful?

I was at the point where I was having doubts about college because I saw real potential with Shameless and I was doubting the dance team because it didn’t align with my values and beliefs. I had a conversation about how I was feeling with my ex-boyfriend at the time over a meal at Applebee’s and he said something to me that ended up changing my life.

He said, “Life’s too short to do something you don’t want to do.” and you know, he said the typical things someone would say to someone else who is talking about going after their dreams, “you can do anything you put your mind to”, “you’re so talented, you should believe in yourself”, blah blah blah.

The next day, I got a call that he had been shot and killed at the barbershop. Through the process of being at the crime scene, attending his funeral and coping with what had happened, I had an overwhelming feeling to go balls to the wall with starting an actual business.

I didn’t sleep for days! I was pulling all-nighters anxious to commit to building a life that I wanted. I prayed to God, shed a lot of tears, and created a plan.

I decided that I was done living my life for other people or living out of fear to fail. I made the choice to stop wasting my time with college and to quit the NBA dance team and fully dedicate myself to my Shameless business.

So the answer to the question “why did I drop out of college” is simple, I felt like my purpose was greater than a piece of paper. I was 100% confident that I would succeed without the degree and that not having it would make me work even harder because there was no plan B waiting to catch me if I fell.

I knew I had some work to do and definitely a ton of research but I was excited about the challenge. I was already making money from Shameless, now it was time to step it up. I needed a location! I spent weeks driving around and researching for vacant storefronts and finally found the perfect place.

I had been saving my money from bartending and waitressing but I was a couple of thousand dollars short of being able to afford the lease for the first 6 months and to be able to renovate and turn it into a dance studio. So I needed to find investors.

A friend of a friend set up a meeting with 2 bankers and I was able to convince them to invest in me. With their investments, I was able to fully renovate and open the studio to the public.

Now let me tell you, had I of known any better, I would of went about things completely different, but we’ll talk about that at another time.

At the end of the day, my opinion about college is this. It’s not for everyone. I think it’s important to understand what you want out of life and what is needed in order to accomplish that. Nowadays, millionaires are self-taught average people who had great ideas or solve peoples problems with unique solutions, and that doesn’t take a college degree.

So if you want to be a doctor, lawyer, dentist or school teacher, yes go to college, you need to if that’s your choice of profession.

But if you want to own your own business or do something out of the norm, look to the people who have done it already and follow their footsteps.

There are so many different ways to become educated and skilled in something without going to debt with student loans. Be resourceful and weigh out all of your options.

Because I believed in myself, created a plan and committed to it, I am physically free to live life as I please and financially able to be debt free and create generational wealth for my future family.

Thank you so much for reading and until next time, be shameless!