During the summer of 2011, I accepted an opportunity to participate in a panel about my college experience at Cornell University and my internship experience at Goldman Sachs for a group of about 50 high school aged boys of color.
The panel was followed by breakouts at different tables with boys split up in groups of 10 – 12. By the time the day ended, I felt like I had made a lasting impression on the boys. So much, that I gave all of them my email address and personal number to reach out to me if they had questions or wanted support with their college application process. Following the event, I received one email. It was from Jeremiah Grant. Like all of the other kids, Jeremiah listened and seemed interested in attending college. Unlike the other kids, however, Jeremiah was the only student to follow-up that day. First came the gratitude for my time and then came the questions about school and life. Before I knew it, Jeremiah and I were pen pals and I found myself taking an interest in him and his future.
When I initially heard about the Bezos Scholars program, I thought Jeremiah would be a great fit for it. I followed up and submitted his letter of support and made the cut, even though I didn’t quite understand what the Bezos Scholars program was. Later that year, I found myself at Jeremiah’s graduation as he was ending one chapter of his life as a 2012 Bezos Scholar and was getting ready to embark on his next one, this time, at Cornell.
Fast forward five years, I find myself at TED as a 2017 Fellow supported by TED staff and – who would’ve imagined – Bezos Scholars! A couple of months after the TED conference, I found myself at a dinner with a handful of Bezos Scholars who were eager to hear more about my experience as an education entrepreneur. After mentoring Jeremiah for over five years and meeting a handful of Bezos Scholars, I now know that they are a group of grateful, compassionate people with an insatiable intellectual curiosity that keeps them yearning for social progress. Their smiles are infectious and they have attractive personalities that pull you into their orbit. Working with Jeremiah over the past few years and meeting a handful of Bezos Scholars has helped alleviate a lot of the pressure I once shouldered to be the face of change for my generation.