First Generation College Graduate to First Generation Professional: The Formation of Grit

My journey to the career development space was quite unexpected. I always knew I would attend college. I didn't know how, but I knew it would happen. Once I got to college, I excelled despite the odds against me. My financial resources were limited but I was proactive and always presented myself in the best light, which resulted in me receiving what I needed. My ultimate career goal was to become a lawyer. I worked towards that goal, and almost achieved that goal. I enrolled in North Carolina Central University School of Law in August of 2015. Two years prior, I graduated from Miles College as the Valedictorian of my class with a bachelors of science in Criminal Justice with a dual minor in Political Science and International Studies. I did not have the financial resources to prepare for the LSAT, so I sought scholarships for prep courses. I ended up receiving a scholarship for a prep program geared towards disadvantaged students. I was absolutely that. That class was a crash course, providing only 6-8 weeks of preparation for a standardized test. I scored in the lower percentile, but because I had a high grade point average and strong extra-curricular activities, I was admitted to the law school.

Law School was a different beast. I had no idea what Law School would involve. I lived in a dorm with undergraduate students because I didn't have the money to pay for off-campus housing. The undergraduate living arrangement was not conducive to my learning. I was unable to sleep or study in my living quarters. A few weeks before finals, I found out my grandmother, who was raised, was gravely ill. I mentally checked out of the learning mode, and ended up bombing my finals. I was academically dismissed. I went from the top of my class to the bottom.

After returning to my hometown, I struggled with the feelings of embarrassment of wondering what others thought of me. I finally pulled myself together and started watching YouTube videos and listened to podcasts on career development. I learned about marketing myself, networking, and identifying my strengths and weaknesses. I finally received a part-time job offer from volunteer work with a local food insecurity program. I shared that I returned home after having to leave law school due to financial and family issues. I was offered a position as a Director for a food delivery program. I met an employee from the Gadsden Job Corps Center during their time volunteering for the food program and encountered them weekly. They told me about an opening at the Center and suggested I apply if I was interested in full-time work. That encounter led me to the Job Corps space. That job changed the trajectory of my career. It was the position that lit my fire for career development. I met young people with similar backgrounds to mine, but were not able to make it to college or a career. I was able to share my story of completing college and what I learned from my law school experience. I shared my experiences of landing job offers from volunteer experience and networking. Fast-forward six years later, I am in a leadership role where I'm able to impact the career development for more than 1,500 students. I've learned those rules of navigating the workspace, negotiating my salary, and advocating for myself. My experiences have taught me that students from disadvantaged backgrounds simply lack resources and not capability.

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