Senior year is not anything like I thought it would be when I first came to Georgetown — in the best way. I’m having the strongest football season of my career. I made it into the famous Donna Brazile’s “Women in American Politics” class. And I accepted the job offer that I realized was my destiny.
When I got to campus four years ago, I was a computer science major with plans to make big money after graduation. But my first computer science class proved harder than I expected, so I dropped the class and my ambition along with it. I had a scholarship to play football at Georgetown — who needed school, right? I skipped class, partied hard and played football. I told myself that was what I was there for anyway.
That attitude quickly landed me on academic probation with a 1.6 GPA. When I got the news, I questioned whether I could survive at Georgetown. In high school I had not given much thought to what I would do once I got here. I figured just being on campus was good enough. No one I knew had been to college, let alone to one as elite as ours.
As reality set in, I knew I had to change if I wanted to stay. Over the next couple semesters, I worked to do better in the classroom. And though I still partied too much, I did improve. By sophomore year, I had decided to major in sociology because I liked studying people. I had no idea that my major would change my life.
Through sociology, I took classes on the injustices and inequalities in the United States. As I did, I was forced to think about my own background. I looked around at my classmates, friends, and professors and realized none of them had the same experiences as me. None of them had shared a one-bedroom in a low-income community like mine. None of them made weekly visits to their mom in the hospital, trapped there by sickle cell anemia. None of them cared for their younger brothers while their dad was locked up at the federal prison. None of them grew up like I did, and those who did were nowhere near O Street.
Around the time I was making these realizations, I got a job at the After School Kids program, working with high school kids on house arrest for various reasons. Spending time with them I realized just how much we had in common, with just a few strokes of luck separating us. Because I played football I got to attend a private high school, and I was fortunate enough to have cousins and mentors showing me what not to do. Those little discrepancies were the difference between me and my students, who never dreamed a school like Georgetown could ever be in their futures.
The next semester, I tutored kindergarteners in reading. They were so young, but all of them had aspirations to learn and thrive and live into their big dreams. Comparing them to my high schoolers, I started to wonder: Where did things go wrong? When does the light that shines in all kids first start to dim?
Thinking again of my own story, the path forward seemed clear. All these students needed was support — just like me in my first semesters at Georgetown. I almost didn’t make it, but I had support at school that helped me make it through. I owed my success to my teachers and mentors. I will never be able to pay them back. But I can absolutely pay it forward.
The way to do that became clear when I ran into a Teach For America recruiter last spring. The more I learned, the more excited I got. This was my chance to dedicate myself full-time to empowering kids and work for a more equitable education system. I applied early deadline, got admitted and will now get the chance to continue my work with D.C. students this fall.
My ultimate dream is to become a principal and work in education policy at the national level. That work will begin with Teach For America, where I will leverage a national network to make a local impact. Wherever I go, I know that as I empower my students to break the cycle, we’ll together become part of a better one — a network of activists and advocates who have seen and experienced injustice firsthand, have been a part of chipping away at it and won’t rest until it is gone.
I can’t wait for school to start.
Troye Bullock is a current senior studying sociology. He is also a leader on the football team and head of a community-based learning class.