When I was a young boy, success meant making my parents happy. When I became a teenager, it meant earning money to help my family. Now that I’ve transitioned into adulthood, I define success as making and maintaining a broad range of connections.
Attending Georgetown University has taught me how to make these types of connections. Yet Georgetown has also shown me the difficulties of competing with those who have had access to such resources for their entire lives. As a result, I’ve decided to become a connection for others, so they can balance the odds.
I did not have an easy life growing up. My family struggled through homelessness, hunger and poverty, while my mother battled cancer.
Neither of my parents attended college; my mother didn’t complete high school because she was too busy raising me. My father worked intermittently but had trouble holding down a consistent job because of his severe bipolar disorder.
I have made peace with the way my family’s history — vastly different from that of an average Georgetown student — has shaped my past and my present, but I refuse to let it determine my future.
With this pride, I also have a rather large chip on my shoulder. My fire comes from one place in particular: My professional journey has been more difficult than those of many of my Georgetown classmates, as I had to forge all of my professional connections by myself.
Where does a 20-year-old man whose mother passed away when he was 14 and whose father has a pages-long criminal record find connections?
I’ve met Georgetown students who want to be doctors because their parents work in medicine. Others are desperate to start a business because their parents own a Fortune 500 company.
Many students’ connections are a result of their parents’ success: These students all have safety nets. They may have worked hard for their success, but their risks come with the knowledge that their parents may help them.
My risks are different. Their mistakes could set their careers back months, but a small misstep could destroy mine.
Many of my peers in the Georgetown Scholarship Program share this frustration — a frustration rooted in fear. We are hungry for information sessions and for moments when businesses come to campus so that we may meet a recruiter. We work twice as hard to forge these connections, so we might stand a chance in the professional world when we graduate.
GSP students have approached this issue in their own manners. I’ve attempted to balance the scales by involving myself in organizations like the Baker Scholars program that may set me up for future success.
The Baker Scholars Program, which was created for intellectually inspired and socially conscious leaders interested in business, has been an invaluable opportunity for me to try to level the playing field. At the annual Baker reception, where I had the chance to meet program alumni, I was offered numerous business cards and chances to connect with successful individuals.
During that reception, I felt incredibly privileged. I recalled the hours I’d spent working to get into Georgetown and the amount of time I’ve spent just maintaining my GPA while here. I realized that with this opportunity I was — if only for a moment — standing on equal footing with most of the students who attend Georgetown. It’s a powerful, if not unsettling, feeling. Whenever I have moments like this, I wonder how far away I’ve grown from the Emilio who came to Georgetown just three years ago.
With the privileged position I hold as a Georgetown student, and as a Baker scholar, I must help others.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned at Georgetown is that, ultimately, I need to make myself a connection other people seek. I advertise my successes and my struggles, so students with backgrounds like mine can look to me as inspiration; I hope in this way, my own professional network develops organically.
For example, after working for Instagram this summer, I’m honored to have aided many students looking for help with their applications to various technology companies. Georgetown students are on the track to greatness; that these students consider me someone they’d want to get to know makes me feel amazing.
Despite my past frustrations — and my frequent disillusionment with the immense amount of economic and professional privilege I’ve observed on this campus — I’m still left with hope.
As I’ve come to learn the beautiful, complex stories of Georgetown students, I can’t help but feel the connections I’m forging here are more than just professional — they are personal. I’m grateful for each person I’ve gotten the chance to know. I look forward to being part of their lives, just as I hope they look forward to being part of mine.
Emilio Joubert is a junior in the College and a member of the Georgetown Scholarship Program. GSP offers support services to over 650 low-income and/or first-generation college students. Proud to Be GSP appears online every other Tuesday.