Keep Moving Forward: What I Learned from Detroit Youth Rising
I recently had one of the most motivating and empowering experiences of my life. I was invited to attend the Detroit Youth Rising event in downtown Detroit. The evening featured a fireside chat between Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and Vista Equities founder Robert Smith, reportedly the richest African-American. Together, Dan Gilbert and Robert Smith have a combined net worth of $10 billion. Sitting in a room with people who are so successful and having a chance to speak with two billionaires isn’t an opportunity kids like me get every day.
Several dozen students from across Detroit were also in attendance and we all got the opportunity to learn about Robert on a personal level. He shared information about his family, his childhood, his company, and how he obtained so much success. We also got a chance to learn about Intern X, a new program Robert is working on with Fund II Foundation, a philanthropic organization he established in 2014. InternX helps youth find internships that will advance their success after college. In addition to the discussion, there was also an opportunity for us to network with other students and the community leaders who were in attendance.
What I Learned
After listening to the talk, the most important takeaway I got was the power of persistence. During the interview, Robert told a story of how he got his first internship at Bell Laboratories, which is a scientific research company. When Robert first inquired about the position during his junior year in high school, he was turned down because the company was only looking to hire interns that were in their junior or senior year of college. But Robert did not let that stop him. He kept calling back to the office and he kept getting denied. Regardless of how many times he got “no” for an answer, he never accepted it. Finally, after trying, failing, and trying again, he landed an internship at Bell Laboratories in his senior year of high school.
This internship became the catalyst for all of his future successes—and everything that he has achieved is based off of his determination and perseverance. For kids in my generation, I believe this an important example of why you should never give up on something you want. The goals you are striving for can change your life forever.
Applying It To My Goals
Following the event, I immediately began to apply Robert’s lesson about persistence to my own life. As a senior at Detroit Cass Tech High School, I’m currently in the process of applying to universities. However, my dream school, Spelman College, recently deferred my application. This means I have to send in more information before I will officially know whether I will be accepted or not.
At first, I saw a lot of my classmates getting accepted into Spelman. Being deferred felt the same as being rejected. I got discouraged and gave up for a while. I thought that I was not good enough to get in and that I should just settle for my second choice.
After hearing Robert’s story, I realized that everything in life doesn’t happen on your first try and that you only lose if you don’t try again. I am planning on sending my transcripts off and completing the necessary steps to ensure my acceptance into my dream school. Because this is the first step to the start of my career. I have to keep pushing forward. And not only for me, but also for all those I will affect in the future. I will never let the word “no” get in my way again.