HOW I TURNED A BAD ACADEMIC YEAR INTO ONE OF MY BEST PROFESSIONAL YEARS
Growing up, I was always told that getting straight A's is the only way to success, so I made it my priority. Especially when you’re born into a brown family. Getting less than a 90 wasn't an option for us as brown kids.
When I came to New York, my only priority was to get A's and make my parents happy. This is why, in middle school, I was the salutatorian and graduated high school in the top 10% of my class with an associate’s degree from Medgar Evers College. However, during my senior year of high school, I started to get involved in the real world.
I started to realize that along with academics, I needed to gain experience and meaningful connections to be successful. This led me to start my own tutoring company with two of my closest friends. Starting a company felt like I was starting a real journey. After launching Kids Ivy Tutors, I got into college. For me, college wasn't a place where I would only learn about academics, but it was also a place where I sought to build my network and use resources to learn about entrepreneurship and take my business to a whole new level.
Some of the reasons why 2016-2017 was my worst academic year
Graduating high school with an associate’s degree was one of my greatest academic accomplishments. However, when I officially started college it was much harder than I had expected. My courses were much more challenging since I had already completed many of the easier ones in high school. It also didn’t give me a chance to explore other fields—I went straight went into computer science because I realized that it’s a demanding major.
I had realized that every up and coming company would need a coder and that led me to pick one of the hardest majors out there. So, I decided to commit to City College’s Grove School of Engineering as a Computer Science major. After few weeks of classes, I realized that computer science wasn’t something I was interested in. At that moment, I decided to change my major to something I could be more passionate about, so I thought I should do something in business.
I instantly changed my major to a business-related focus. This change came with a price since I had to change my courses and catch up to my related major. It was a hassle finding classes since they had already started a few weeks earlier. Most of the classes were already full. I didn't know what to take. Then I had to drop one of the classes because I was too far behind. That led to my GPA dropping. Since the first semester was so bad, I was hoping that during the second semester, I would average it out. But, instead of focusing on my academics I started to focus on my business and getting more involved in campus activities and internships. Although I had a bad academic year, I believe the sacrifice paid off with a newly acquired focus on business and entrepreneurship.
Here are some of my wins outside of the classroom...
Started my own tutoring company, Kids Ivy Tutors, at the age of 18 with two of my closest friends. On our first year 2016-2017, we had a net profit of $25,000. It wasn’t easy for us to achieve such success in our first year but through constant hard work, we made it. We attended many networking events and constantly stayed connected with individuals who can help us. We also received much help from our teachers and professors. One advice I would give is that don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Got accepted to over 8 internships and (already!)offered a full-time job after graduating college. One thing I realized by talking to many of my friends and other students is that they only apply to a job that only meets their qualifications. But, one of my mentors once told me it does not matter what your exact qualifications are because you’ll never know if you don’t try. I took that advice into consideration and applied to internships that I liked. Believe it or not, after interviewing with one of the company’s, it led me get my first full-time job offer after graduating college. Other internships I was able to secure were through my connections. I would suggest that you start building your networks at the young age and it will last lifelong.
Got accepted to the prestigious 1-year Colin Powell Fellowship at the City College of New York and a candidate of Stanford’s University Innovation Fellows program. I’ve also received a full ride to attend a study abroad opportunity at one of the top business school in the world, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This is why I would highly advise all college students to get deeply involved on your campus. I started doing research on how I can get involved on my campus, that is when I found out about the Colin Powell Fellowship and Zahn Innovation Center. Zahn Innovation Center is an incubator that nurtures entrepreneurial initiatives at the City College of New York, providing students, faculty, and staff with the tools they need to transform their ideas into sustainable ventures. They offer support for both technology-enabled start-ups and social impact ventures. They were the ones who helped me get the scholarship to study abroad. I would suggest research on your campus and find out what they offer and what resources they have. Another piece of advice I would give always tries to be the friendly person on campus. Even though this was my first year at CCNY, I met lots of students and became close with few students which led me to many opportunities one of them is University Innovation Fellows. I was recommended to this fellowship by one of my closest friends, who brought the fellowship to campus. So don’t be scared to make friends, be the first one to say “hi”.
Joined the Entrepreneurship Student Club. This is probably was one of the best decision I made in my life. Met the coolest and most entrepreneurial human beings ever. Found some my closest friends/mentors. We were able to host multiple influential speakers such as Forbes 30 under 30 honorees Karim Abouelnaga and Jamira Burley and one of the most impactful entrepreneurs of our generation, Gary Vaynerchuk. We also co-organized a TEDx talk, among many other events. I met some of the most influential professors on campus who gave me many advice on business related topics.
Grateful/blessed to have been one of the organizers for one the biggest summits in Harlem, the Harlem Tech Summit. Thanks to Professor Glenford Patterson and the team, we hosted a great event featuring phenomenal individuals like Ryan Williams, Fred Wilson, Lee Moulton, Jason Saltzman and 40 others.I recently started my non-profit organization called Génnovate. Génnovate is a non-profit organization that guides high school and college students to become leaders and innovators through providing professional developments workshops, mentoring, and introducing them to on demand skills. Check out our work at our Facebook Gennovate.
Started an initiative with a couple of my friends to help the homeless. We helped over 50 homeless individuals in NYC through giving clothes, beverages, and food. Started a motivational Page on Instagram called @teen_moto. Motivational depiction from success, to relationship, to even finding your own self and even the failure. Our goal is to motivate today's youth through other successful professional stories and advice.
Through such an interesting academic year, I learned to never be scared to pursue an idea. You just have to go out there and get started. Attending college is the best decision of someone could ever make, however, it’s a place to build your networks and getting involved in the real world along with your academics. Even though it was not a great year for me in terms of academics, it was a great professional year. Next year, I hope to make both my academic and profession a great one.
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