Editor’s Note:Hustling helps us work against the odds. When everything seems to be holding us back, and no one seems to be offering support, it’s this mindset that keeps us motivated. And for some people, like Savannah, it leaves us with a desire to help others hustle their way to success.
During the year 2009, I was in my senior year of high school. I knew what I wanted: to be able to go to college. It was a dream no one else in my family had yet accomplished, but I knew I was willing to do whatever it took.
I had worked and studied hard in high school. I had the grades, the resume, the extracurriculars; all I needed was the funding. Coming from a low-income background, I knew my family would never be able to financially support me. To them, I was making a huge mistake for not attending the local community college. As for me, I was desperate to break out of mold my family had been caged in: the endless cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, worrying about how to afford the next meal, dysfunctional and broken relationships. I wanted something better, and I knew an education could get me there.
My senior year of high school was a constant whirlwind of studying for classes, standardized tests, AP exams, music auditions, applying to colleges and scholarships, and pursuing every possible route for affording my higher education. I contacted churches and local community foundations, networked with past employees and supervisors, contacted frequent donors to my school, read through scholarship manuals at my library, researched every possible variation of the “scholarship” keyword on local high school and college websites, and applied to everything I could find. I called private financial aid counselors, spoke with nonprofit organizations, talked with the departments of financial aid, career services, and admissions at several universities, and even contacted college faculty and alumni. I did everything.
And I made it. As a result of this hard work, I was able to attend my dream school, an institution that costs an average of $60,000 a year, for free.
Although this dream was made possible by my willingness to hustle, the real reason my dream came true is because of all of the people in the world who are willing to put the time and money into helping kids go to college. They are the true heroes; they are the ones who make this world a better place. They inspire us to do better and reach higher. The faith and generosity shown by these strangers who were willing to help me afford college is what inspired me to start Leaders Gift.
Leaders Gift is an organization I founded that seeks to encourage students to pursue higher education by providing college admission and financial aid information online. Leaders Gift also organizes fundraisers and seminars, networks students to financial aid counselors and other nonprofit organizations, and it campaigns for Paving It Forward. Paving It Forward is the single most important thing I have learned from hustling; work hard to achieve your dreams, and remember to give back once you have achieved them. Break the cycles of poverty, discrimination and ignorance by instead creating a cycle of passing down goodwill from person to person.
Leaders Gift is now an incorporated organization fully recognized by both legal and community standards, and I intend to continue growing it. In the future, I would like to continue pursuing my entrepreneurial interests by starting a media and marketing firm, as well as contributing towards charity and education. My hope is that my newest venture of attending Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business for my Masters in Management Studies will fully prepare me for these goals.
Now that I am attempting to afford my Masters at Duke University, I am very much back in the same situation I was in during my senior year of high school. Once again, I am faced with the challenge of affording the last step to my education. Once again, I know that the hustling I have to put into this dream will be worth it, because it will give me all the tools I need to achieve my goals. Once again, I intend to use what I learn from this experience to help others also achieve their goals.
Over the past few years, I have learned that hustling is about overcoming your fears to do what needs to be done. It is about never letting excuses defeat your dreams, and always responding to failure by trying again. It is about believing in yourself when no one else will. Not only does hustling require hard work and energy, but it thrives off of it. It is built for speed and constant development. Hustling is what has enabled me to achieve what I have so far, and hustling will continue allowing me to succeed in everything I do.