The following post is adapted from a speech delivered at YES Prep Kickoff 2017 to 1,400 YES Prep teachers and staff members. Guest writer, Randi Lawrence Jones, is YES Prep’s Managing Director of College Initiatives. After the introduction below, Jones moderated an alumni panel.
I am from New Orleans, Louisiana, and as a kid, I did not know I lived in one of the roughest housing districts New Orleans, the Magnolia Projects. And while my family was hard-working, times were tough, and this was not an ideal environment for a young girl– really, for any child.
My father would take the bus to work and on one day the driver had to stop two blocks up from his original stop due to construction. I will never forget him coming home so excited to tell us about the amazing thing he saw across the street from where he got off the bus. It was a school. Where little black and brown girls were dressed in their school uniforms, with books in their hands, and where teachers were outside welcoming students. Everyone looked happy. He made a decision at that moment that he would do whatever it takes to ensure his daughter would have that educational experience.
He made the decision to enlist in the military. He said “I will sacrifice my life so my daughter does not have to sacrifice hers.”
Well, I went to that school and was exposed to a new world. The school I was supposed to go to was like Eastside High before Mr. Clark showed up. But at this new school, I was surrounded by people just like each of you, teachers and staff who wanted me to succeed.
I went on to be the first person in my family to step on a college campus and graduate from a college campus. The first person to get a Master’s Degree and study at Harvard business School and Columbia Business school. Each time breaking the generational cycle of poverty.
I have worked in college admissions; built and ran my own million-dollar business; and worked for the Princeton Review. I came to YES Prep with the fire to give back what I was able to attain.
Why? Because according to the statistics, I am not supposed to be here.
So, when times get rough and you’ve worked the math problem 2 or 3 times in different ways, or when you have to take time to walk parents through each step of a process, push, fight and never give up. Because every time you look at our students you’re talking to a younger me.